Will Johnson is the steady veteran that almost anyone would want on their team. Except with the alleged off-the-field issues from last season, there are those that would prefer he not be a Lion. In his second year for Orlando City, Johnson only made noise on the pitch. It was not his most productive offensive year ever, but given he plays a mostly defensive role, that’s only so important. Johnson did what Johnson does, and that is to provide consistency, leadership, and the occasional good corner kick.
Johnson played in 28 of the team’s 34 games during the 2018 MLS season, and started 26 of those. He started one of the three U.S. Open Cup games and subbed on in the other two. Johnson scored one goal in 2018 and added one assist in his 2,338 minutes of time on the field (combined Open Cup and MLS).
The 31-year-old attempted 39 shots on the season, putting 15 on target. He passed at an 84.5% rate,on 983 total passes, with 14 key passes. Defensively, he made 58 tackles, had 48 clearances, intercepted 28 passes, and blocked four shots. He committed 28 fouls but drew 34. He received seven yellow cards and no red cards.
Johnson’s best game came early in the season, though that could be said for many on the team. On March 31, the New York Red Bulls came to Orlando City Stadium and a barn burner ensued, with the Lions finally defeating Red Bulls, 4-3. Johnson scored his only goal of the season, had a 91% passing rate, and other than one giveaway that resulted in the Red Bulls equalizing, he played very good defense. In our player grades for the match, Johnson was in the running for Man of the Match.
2018 Final Grade
The Mane Land staff gave Johnson a composite grade of 5 for the season, despite having an average grade of 6 during the season during individual game player grades posts. Johnson is often considered to be the blue collar, lunch pail-carrying journeyman of the team. There are those that will look at anything he does on the field with jaded eyes, however, he does put in the work when he plays and he’s willing to play any position, even if it isn’t his best spot on the field. I think his performance mirrored the entire squad’s. At times he played very well, especially early in the season. He then had a slump through the summer, and returned to a sense of his better form near the end.
Johnson is a wily veteran, but with so many defensive midfielders on this squad, it’s tough to know if his experience and work rate will allow him to return next season. According to internet rumors, the club may have triggered his contract option by starting him a set number of times, but that doesn’t mean necessarily that he’d stay on, as there are other ways to shed players that aren’t in the coaches’ plans. If he does return, we can expect the same level of consistency and hustle, albeit with the occasional lapses that a higher quality player might not show as often. He’s not going to wow you in any one category, but he’s solid in most. I’m sure we’ll all find out whether he’s in purple in 2019 soon enough.