IRAIW Interview with Samantha Johnson
Samantha Johnson is an American soccer player with newly founded NWSL club, the Utah Royals. After loan spells in Australia with Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory, the California-born defender is stateside again, acquired by the fledgling club in a swap deal with Chicago Red Stars. The Royals play in the National Women's Soccer League and share Rio Tinto Stadium with Major League Soccer side Real Salt Lake.
How did your interest in football start?
Well, I started playing when I was around five years old. My mom always tells me that it was the only sport I was interested in as a child. I guess the sport chose me as much as I chose it!
So why do you enjoy playing the game?
I think playing football is a two-way street. You get back what you put in. I have dedicated my life to the sport; so I, like every player have a special relationship with the game.
Specifically, though, I love it when the opposition takes a heavy touch and I’m able to get in there; with a resounding tackle - stopping their entire play. I call it a #CRUNCH. Doing that, even once a game is the best part of the 90 minutes for me.
You played in the US college system in the US, how does it differ from the professional leagues?
I think the college system is incredibly valuable to the development of the women’s game here in America. It allows us to balance our commitments to the sport as well as continue to study. When you want to a be a professional athlete, you need to have a backup plan; and also, a football playing career isn’t forever. So, a college education sets you up for when we hang our boots up.
The NWSL is just six years old. Is American women’s league football going in the right direction?
I think that the league is going through an extensive process to make itself sustainable and one day even profitable. It may take a long time but it seems like there are some business-savvy people behind it who are determined to make it succeed. I’m glad I can be part of it with the Utah Royals.
As you mentioned, you’re with the Utah Royals. What is it like to be part of a new team?
The club isn’t really that new. They’ve got new ownership and they’ve changed the name around a bit, but it’s fundamentally the same as the FCKC club that it came from. That said, the refresh is certainly welcome.
I came here because I was traded from the Chicago Reds, and I too am ready for a new challenge. It’s a good squad and we want to do well and make our mark as the first Utah Royals team.
Something really interesting here at the Royals is that the club provides me with both my breakfast and my lunch - every day!
You’ve played in Australia as well as the US. What are the differences?
Here in America, it’s about your athleticism. It’s a question of whether you can go the full ninety minutes and more, and whether you are stronger in doing so than the rival team. I think it echoes the ethos of all American sports, to be physically superior to your opponent. Australia still has a fantastic league, but it’s a lot more technical rather than athletic.
How do the fans compare?
Each of the NWSL clubs has their own identity and like the league, they too are in the development process. However, the Melbourne Victory fans are something else! They bleed the royal dark blue! The supporters club there really makes match days an unforgettable experience. They really do have great fans Down Under.
What’s your favorite career moment?
You know, I’ve had so many good times here in the States, in college and of course down under in Australia. I’ve enjoyed every minute of my career. Right now I’m focused on making the most of my time with the Royals.
Do you have any ambitions for your career in the future?
I don’t stay up at night with burning desires which are set in stone. I just want to become a better footballer. I am working closely with Amy LePeilbet, who is a world-class coach, who was a defender in her playing days. I am going to pester her every day in order to improve. At this level, it’s about making marginal improvements in our game, which will give us the advantage over our opposition.