The way Ryan Johnson looks at it, it’s better to be wanted than not.
That was the forward’s philosophical reaction after going from one of the San Jose Earthquakes’ longest-tenured players — having arrived early in 2008, the Quakes’ first season back in MLS — to one of a raft of new additions picked up by Toronto FC this week.
“[Toronto] are changing things up, they had their eyes on certain players who they felt can help their team,” Johnson told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Thursday. “I’m just happy they felt I’m one of those players who can help push them into the playoffs and beyond this season.”
Johnson swapped sides of the continent Thursday, being shipped from California to Canada along with allocation money and an international player slot in exchange for forward Alan Gordon, midfielder Jacob Peterson and defender Nana Attakora. He’s expected to arrive in Toronto over the weekend.
“I’m excited to play in a different place,” Johnson said. “I’ve been here for four years. I’ve enjoyed my time in San Jose, but at the same time, sometimes new scenery can help players. I have mixed emotions.”
Johnson shot to prominence in 2009 when he scored a team-high 11 goals for the Quakes, but he had only one goal in 2,793 minutes over the last two seasons.
While part of that drought can be explained away by Johnson’s bouncing between the left wing and striker positions, there were too many chances that just barely missed. It was perhaps emblematic that Johnson’s final act of note as a Quake came last Saturday when he lofted a beautiful shot from the top of the box across Philadelphia’s goalmouth — only to see it clank off the crossbar in a match that ended 0-0.
“It’s hard to [score] at the outside midfield position when you have a lot more responsibilities,” Johnson said. “I’m not really one that’s big on stats and things. I’m big on effort and doing what it takes to win.”
Indeed, Johnson did notch a combined 10 assists in 2010 and ’11, and the starts he continued to earn from coach Frank Yallop were not merely showcasing him for prospective suitors.
“Ryan Johnson, he’s been a good teammate and a good player for us,” Quakes general manager John Doyle told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “We do wish him well.”
Johnson said he’s looking forward to getting a crack at playing in Aron Winter’s "Total Football" system, even if it hasn’t yielded the kind of results the first-year coach would have liked.
“I think it’s going to show the best I can do, if I get that freedom,” Johnson said. “Total Football is a great system to watch. It should be great to play in.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes