Wherever Real Salt Lake striker Sam Johnson goes, Liberia follows

Sam Johnson's transfer history is quite a sight to behold, with stories aplenty amid the 10 professional clubs across nine different leagues the 25-year-old has played for.

Liberia has been right there with him every step of the way, one goal and one club at a time. 

“Sure, in my country I’m very well known," Johnson tells MLSsoccer.com modestly. "When I come home, a lot of people show me the love. I always try to give my helping hand to folks who don’t have anything. Whatever little I have, I try to share. It makes me happy and proud.” 

Johnson understates the profound impact he has on all those in his life. 

“My whole family (depends on me)," Johnson said. "I have a football club, Nimba FC, in my country. I have like 16 children on it, I’m helping them. If their parents don’t have the things to help them, I try my best. I have a lot of people that I’m helping. I’ll do everything for them – my older brother, my mother, my sisters, my nephew, all these people.”

When he was 13-years-old, his dad passed away. His mother raised him and his six siblings alone, allowing Johnson the opportunity to pursue the game. He hasn't forgotten where he's come from.

Now, after scoring his first goal with Real Salt Lake in the club's 2-1 win over Orlando City SC last weekend, Johnson aims to push on and provide the quality that has sent him from Liberia to Sweden to China to Norway and, now, the United States: scoring goals. 

Sam Johnson | RSL.com

RSL's latest Designated Player began his career in his native Liberia, playing for third division side New Dream FC before being scouted by first tier team Nimba FC (of which he is now club president). He was selected by the U-23 national team when he was 15 years old and now has earned 11 caps for the senior side since making his debut in 2015. 

Throughout his exploits at home, he earned the chance to go to Europe.

Johnson landed in Sweden, playing as low as that country's fifth division between 2011-14. His chance to jump up to the Allsvenskan – the country's top tier – arrived shortly thereafter at Djurgardens IF.

He repaid their faith with 17 goals in 41 appearances, and widespread interest followed from other leagues.

"I was not happy to go to China, because I was young, but my family told me about all the people back home that depend on me," Johnson said. "I talked to my mom, and she said, 'You have to take the opportunity now. Go to China, come back in one or two years.'"

That's exactly what he did. 

With Wuhan Zall of the Chinese second tier, he scored 11 goals in 26 appearances across two seasons before returning to Scandinavia, this time for a season in Norway, where he had 11 goals in 21 appearances at Valerenga. Again, he was the subject of widespread interest before ultimately choosing RSL.

Johnson's globetrotting career means he has ample practice at settling into new places, with Utah serving as the latest.

“I’m trying my best," Johnson said. "I believe in myself, I know who I am. I’ve been around the world. I know for every difficult thing I’m in that I will try my best, focus on myself and try to help the team.”

Real Salt Lake have had a rotating door at center forward for some time now and Johnson provides the club a new dimension with his pace and goals. While his place in the starting XI isn't yet cemented, he's encouraged by the way matters are trending.

“All the players in the club are very good," Johnson said. "I’m happy to play with everyone, I’m happy to be on this team.”


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