The United States Women’s national team is on the brink of playing their fifth game of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. They will take on China PR on Friday night in Ottawa at Lansdowne Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30pm EST.
In their first four games, the USWNT have given up a grand total of one goal and that came in the 27th minute of their opening match of the group stage against Australia. Since then, the USWNT are on a 333 minute shutout streak. A main reason the USWNT walked away with a 3-1 victory over Australia was because of the play from goalkeeper Hope Solo.
The second group saw the USWNT face off against Sweden and their former coach in Pia Sundhage. For just the second time ever, the USWNT were held scoreless during a group stage match. If it wasn’t for Megan Klingenberg, the USWNT would have lost their match against Sweden. Her goal line clearance kept the two teams scoreless.
The third and final group stage match saw them defeat a Nigeria team that was relegated to 10 players 1-0 after Sarah Nnodim pick her second yellow card of the night in the 69th minute. Nigeria only seriously threatened the United States once and that was early in the first half. Their one attempt was shut down by center back Julie Johnston.
Johnston has been stellar at center back so far this world cup. She was able to shut down the speedy Nigerian players. If she can’t beat the player to the ball with speed, she puts herself in the correct position to shut down the player. She is great on set pieces as she great in the air. She has had a few chances to score so far this world cup, but either she sailed the ball over the goal or it was called back for another reason.
Johnston reminds this writer of a player on his hometown MLS team, Chad Marshall of the Seattle Sounders. Marshall most certainly isn’t the fast player on the pitch, but he knows where to be and when to be there. It is very rare to see him make a mistake on the pitch. For a lot of players, it takes time and playing experience to learn these very important traits. Johnston is just 23 and she is playing like a seasoned pro.
You can probably since the theme of this being all about defense and you would be right. If not for the USWNT stellar defense, they more than likely would not have advanced this far in the tournament. After the first game Solo would have been an easy pick for MVP of the team. Since then, it has been all Johnston.
Sure, the rest of the back line of Ali Krieger, Becky Sauerbrunn and Klingenberg deserve as much praise as Johnston. There’s just something about watching Johnston shut down defenders and clear balls with her head. She has become the most important player on this team. She deserves it more than Solo, Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe, Christen Press or even Alex Morgan.
Regardless of how the USWNT finish in this world cup, Julie Johnston deserves to be named MVP of Team USA.