Will Johnson has helped his previous two MLS clubs win their first MLS Cups. He's looking to do the same with his new team.
Officially traded to Toronto FC from the Portland Timbers on Friday, the midfielder returns to his hometown. And the biggest appeal to joining the Canadian outfit, as explained in a conference call with reporters on Friday, is the quest to bring MLS' greatest prize to Toronto.
"The first thing I always look for is that I want to play for a winner, I want to play for a contender, I want to play for a team that’s got good, solid pieces and a team that I think I can add the final piece, one of the pieces, or just a piece to a championship-winning team," Johnson said. "And that is the No. 1 criteria I have when I’m looking for a new challenge."
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Playing in the country he represents internationally for the first time doesn't hurt, either.
"I love BMO Field," Johnson said. "I’ve been there so many times, played so many games with the national team, different moments. But I do definitely think it’ll be different for me. I can’t wait to get there and embrace that part of the city, the club."
Given Johnson's multinational roots, dividing most of his childhood between the United Kingdom and Chicago, he noted the move to TFC could also give him an opportunity to connect locally like never before.
"I understand that, having lived in the United States for a long time, but I think there’s a real opportunity for me to set the record straight with Canadian fans," Johnson said.
Beitashour expressed his excitement in joining TFC in a separate conference call with reporters on Friday.
"I hear a lot of great things about Toronto and the organization from the players, and a lot of great things about the fans," Beitashour said. "Toronto's doing a lot of good things right now, they deserve a winning team, and hopefully I can help bring that winning to the club."
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Toronto general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said that while upgrading the defense was the club's top priority this offseason, they felt the availability of Johnson was too good an opportunity to pass up, not least for his leadership and experience with winning MLS teams.
"Another point we’re trying to do is create a winning spirit, a winning mentality that can help take us not [only] to the playoffs each year but to a championship," Bezbatchenko said. "And there’s no one better we feel to do that in this league than Will Johnson, as well as the group we currently have in the locker room."
Nicholas Rosano contributed reporting to this article.