BEAVERTON, Ore. – Will Johnson returned to Portland this week, fresh off one disappointment, to speak about a career achievement.
The Timbers team captain and midfielder, who left Canada’s ill-fated Gold Cup tournament run early with a stomach illness, was named Monday to the 2013 AT&T MLS All-Star game day roster by Sporting Kansas City and MLS All-Star manager Peter Vermes. Healthy now and back training with the Timbers in preparation for Saturday’s road game against the Philadelphia Union, Johnson reacted to his second All-Star nod in his typical humble fashion.
“It’s a big honor, not going to sugarcoat that,” Johnson said Tuesday at the team’s training facility. “It’s something I’m very proud of, but first and foremost I have to mention the club and my teammates and coaches. Without them, giving me the opportunities and giving me balls in good spots, it just wouldn’t happen.
"So I’m very thankful to them and the organization for the opportunity to be able to get into the All-Star picture," Johnson continued, "and I’m going to do my best to represent the club the way it should be represented.”
Johnson, one of Portland’s signature offseason acquisitions after spending five seasons with Real Salt Lake, is enjoying a career year. He has already doubled his career-high for goals with a six, tied for the team high, and matched a career-high with three assists.
He’s also come into his own as one of the most vocal team leaders.
“He’s kind of our heart and soul,” said Timbers head coach Caleb Porter, who received his own All-Star honor last week when he was named the coach for next year’s game in Portland. “He’s our captain, obviously, but he does a lot for the guys not only in games but in the locker room and really drives our group.
"He’s a great player, but a tremendous leader," Porter added. "He’s done a lot to transform this club into the club that we are now. We’re on the right track, and we’re hoping at the end of the year we’re in the mix to make a run at this thing.”
Johnson also was named captain for the new-look Canadian national team’s Gold Cup bid, but that was a short-lived role. He was unavailable for Canada’s scoreless draw Sunday against Panama that knocked the Canadians out of the tournament. Canada finished in last place in Group A and failed to score a goal in three pool play games.
“Obviously, the Gold Cup was tough, no two ways about that,” Johnson said. “I wish I could have been able to stick around a little longer and give my full self. I was just out of it and couldn’t really do a whole lot there. But obviously coming back, I’m excited to get back with the guys and obviously every game from here on in is going to be a battle.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.