After initially not making the 20-woman roster for the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship, Julie Johnston was invited to Kansas City to train with the U.S. team for a week prior to the tournament. She thought she’d be leaving before the first game.
But things change quickly in the world of international soccer and after an injury to her good friend and former U-20 teammate Crystal Dunn, Johnston has been handed the #19 jersey for the her first World Cup qualifying tournament with the senior Women’s National Team.
“In the last camp before this tournament, I really wanted to make the 20-player roster and my whole focus going into that camp was to play and train like I was going to be a part of the team,” said Johnston, a 22-year-old former Santa Clara University star. “Then not making the team was definitely hard, but this team is so good that you just have to value the time you get. When I was offered to come in and train I was so excited because as a young player every training with these players helps you grow.”
Truth be told, her bags were packed and she was ready to head home before the coaching staff made the change official. It wasn’t easy seeing her good friend head to the airport instead.
“Crystal and I are very close and we’ve been through a lot together in soccer, so to replace her on the roster was bittersweet,” said Johnston. “I know these things happen, but I also know how hard she worked to make this roster and how deserving she was to be here, so it was emotional for both us.”
Now that she’s officially among the 20 players that will attempt to qualify the USA for the 2015 Women’s World Cup, her mentality hasn’t changed.
“I initially wanted to come in a do well as if I was on the 20-player roster,” said Johnston, who in her four caps and during training has seen time both at defensive midfield and at center back. “I wanted to learn how it is to prepare for a World Cup qualifying tournament, to get a feel for the whole experience and now I’m going to do whatever the team needs me to do.”
Johnston, who was the NWSL Rookie of the Year for the Chicago Red Stars in 2014 after being the third overall pick in the draft, is ready to step up if needed, and considering the USA will likely play five games in 12 days, she surely will be. Known for her world class ball-winning and grit, she’s also focusing on contributing to the attack and is tremendous going after crosses from set pieces in the opposing penalty box.
“One of the most important things, especially for a young player, is to learn from the players around you,” said Johnston. “My goals are to get totally confident playing at high pace with the best players in the world, understand my roles and play whatever positions I’m asked. I’m excited for the next step of this journey.”