The plaudits just keep on coming for Will Johnson.
Last week, he was named to the MLS Best XI for the first time; earlier this week, he was publicly praised by Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani for his performance in 2013. Now he’s been named the CSA’s Male Player of the Year, in a vote by media and coaches, and it’s an honor he holds dear to his heart.
“It’s an award that very few players ever get on an international level, so it’s something I’m very proud of,” Johnson told a media conference call on Thursday. “I also think it sets a platform for me to go on and achieve greater things with the national team.”
Though Johnson, 26, played just three times for Canada in 2013, he had a breakout year in his first season with the Portland Timbers, scoring nine goals in 28 appearances and guiding the team to the top of the Western Conference standings. He says that being named team captain by coach Caleb Porter provided him with a “welcome challenge.”
“Giving me a leadership role is something I really relished,” said Johnson. “It just gave me a passion to really excel and take my game to the next level.”
Johnson also wore the captain’s armband for Canada at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, though he played just one game in that tournament due to illness. But Johnson is eager to help guide the men’s national team through what’s so far been a difficult transition process.
“It’s been fun to give young guys advice and to help them out a bit,” said Johnson. “I do look forward to the opportunity, whether I’m a captain or just a veteran player, to help these younger players out.”
While Johnson spoke highly of his first season in Portland – calling it a “special place” and saying the support of the Timbers Army is “second to none” – he also didn’t rule out the possibility of a move abroad.
“I do feel I have the quality to play in Europe, but I also have a young family now, so it would have to be the right situation,” he said. “I enjoy playing [in MLS], I love being an ambassador for this league… so it would have to be something very special to entice me.”
For now, though, Johnson is focused on helping the Timbers climb to even greater heights in 2014, and playing an important role for Canada’s national team on its long, difficult road back to success.
Said Johnson: “I’m hoping this award really gives me that boost.”