Former North soccer star playing for Real Salt Lake
By Rob Wollenzien For Sun-Times Media June 18, 2011 5:02PM
Real Salt Lake midfielder Will Johnson is shown during action in May against Chivas USA at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Johnson would go on to score the game-winning goal in the 87th minute to give Real the 1-0 win. | Melissa Majchrzak photography SANDY, UT - MAY 03: of the Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium on May 07, 2010 in Sandy, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of Melissa Majchrzak Photography License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright Melissa Majchrzak
MLS All-Star ballot
To vote, visit:
Updated: November 16, 2011 1:33AM
Will Johnson has plenty to look forward to in the coming years.
Off the field, the former Naperville North soccer star will marry fiancée Caroline Childs (who also attended Naperville North) in January 2013 and on it, he hopes to continue a successful MLS career with Real Salt Lake.
In the short term, Johnson has a shot at cracking the MLS All-Star roster. If he were to make the team this year, it would be his second time. Johnson earned the votes necessary to suit up for the 2009 All-Stars, when he was also a member of Real Salt Lake.
“It’s a huge honor to be part of an All-Star ballot, obviously,” he said by phone. “I made the All-Star team back in 2009 and it was a fantastic experience to play with the best in the league. Just to be on the ballot every year since has been a great honor.
“It’s a really cool tradition where everybody in the league — the best players — get together and take on some of the best teams in the world.”
Johnson is in his fourth year playing for Real Salt Lake. The 24-year-old midfielder has one goal in seven games so far this year and his team held a 6-3-3 record (21 points) through Friday. He said the team has hit some turbulence with a recent spate of injuries after a fast start, but believes Real Salt Lake can and will recover from that stretch.
“We’re definitely hoping to compete for a championship this year,” he said.
The team plays the Chicago Fire, Johnson’s former MLS team, Wednesday at Toyota Park in Bridgeview.
If Johnson and his teammates are to face adversity this season, he certainly has the pedigree to overcome all odds. Johnson made the Naperville North varsity team as a freshman in his only year playing for the Huskies. Set to graduate in the Class of 2005, he instead worked to complete his GED and left school following his sophomore year.
First, his winding journey took him to England, where he played for Blackburn for a year and a half. Johnson then returned to the States to play one season for the Fire before embarking on a two-year stint in Holland. Eventually, the Toronto-born phenom settled in the Salt Lake City area, where he spends most of the year now.
“I like it a lot,” he said of his current home. “It’s actually a really great place to live. (It’s) a beautiful outdoors kind of an area and a really nice place. I really quite enjoy it.”
After spending about a year of his life in Canada, Johnson’s family moved to Liverpool, England. They lived there until moving to Naperville in 1998. Johnson’s older sister and younger brother also both graduated from Naperville North.
He said living in both England and the United States “gives you a very good sense of what different countries are like and you understand that the world is a pretty big place with a lot of diversity. That’s something that if you learn at an early age, it really helped me out anyway, having all those life experiences as such a young kid.”
Johnson credited some of the leadership influences in his life with impacting his development as a player and person, starting at Naperville North.
“A lot of that credit goes to Mr. Jim Konrad,” Johnson said. “He was a big part of my success, always believing in me and helping me get through school and get the extra help I needed to succeed both in the classroom and on the soccer field.”
Konrad still coaches varsity boys soccer and is assistant boys athletic director.
Johnson realized he had the talent to possibly make a career out of soccer when he was beginning high school. Along the way, his mentors and coaches kept him confident yet humble.
“It’s hard for a coach to be able to tell a kid that he’s got a lot of talent without the kid just blowing up (in his ego),” Johnson said. “It’s been mishandled many different times in many different sports. But, lucky for me, I had some really good coaches and mentors that just really helped me through that process.”
For right now, Johnson plans to just enjoy life with the knowledge that he can overcome challenges. After all, where there’s a Will, there’s a way.