When your team runs into injury issues, there has to be a backbone guy who’s a vocal leader on and off the field, keeping the team unified at all times.
That is exactly what Orlando City has found in newly acquired Will Johnson. And because of his great character and leadership, Head Coach Jason Kreis decided to award Johnson the captain’s armband.
Called a “newcomer” in Orlando, Johnson is no newcomer to MLS, as the 30-year-old has won two MLS Cups and was on Toronto FC last season as his former club finished runners up to Seattle Sounders.
Johnson signed a two-year contract with the Lions three months ago, and has already become a fan favorite among OCSC fans. He has made a serious impact on the dynamic of the team.
Johnson’s approach has been to listen to every player, regardless of who they are.
“I don’t care that much for pleasantries, in terms of coming in and trying to be everybody’s best friend,” Johnson said. “This is a business. We’ve got to win. I’ve had a lot of success in this league in winning, so guys respect that and understand that I’m here to help. I’m here to lead.”
Johnson has repeatedly asked players returning from last year’s squad what went wrong and what they think needs to be changed, as he’s taking it upon himself to take the Lions deep in the playoffs.
“Jason [Kreis] knows I’m up for the challenge,” Johnson said of his current manager at Orlando City. Kreis was also the manager at Real Salt Lake when Johnson spent four seasons with the team between 2008 and 2012.
Kreis explained his decision to name Johnson as captain saying, “A lot of it has to do with Will’s mentality. He’s a born competitor. He comes out every single day here and gives absolutely everything he can.”
“He kind of has all the qualities you’re looking for in a leader and someone who could and should wear the captain’s band.”
So far, Johnson and Orlando City are 1-0-0 with the veteran as the captain, as he said leading the team out at home against Philadelphia was a “huge, proud moment.”
Johnson was used primarily as a defensive midfielder in the preseason, but with so many injuries to the natural defenders, the talented MLS vagabond has dropped back to help out. As right back Scott Sutter comes in from Switzerland and other defenders slowly return to the lineup, expect to see Johnson moved back into a more central role to help unite the back line with the midfield.
Johnson and company will look to continue their winning streak to open the season as Orlando City travels to Columbus to face Crew SC on Saturday.