The 2015 soccer Women’s World Cup begins on Saturday, June 6 in Canada. The United States team is one of a handful of favorites to win the tournament and they’ve got a great story. Despite decades of excellent play, the team has not won a World Cup championship since 1999. That’s a whole generation of dreams denied and all the reason anyone should need to root for the team this year. To help prepare you to root for team and country, we’re going to run a short profile of every player on the 23-person roster. When female athletes take their turn in the spotlight, they often receive coverage that is slanted toward non-game aspects of their stories — marriage, children, sexual preference, perceived lack-of or bountiful sexiness, social media activity, etc. In the hope of balancing things out, just a tiny bit, these previews will strive to stay on the field, with only a little bit of non-gendered personal interest when possible.
National team experience: 10 appearances, this will be her first World Cup, and she has 3 international goals.
What to expect from Julie Johnston: Going into a World Cup with an inexperienced central defender is something that would usually strike fear into even the most optimistic soccer fans. Julie Johnston is the exception to that rule. Despite being 23 and having only played ten games with the senior national team, Johnston has played so confidently and well this spring, that her presence on the field has the opposite affect. She’s a calming and confidence inspiring presence for teammates and fans. The United States often dominates games and so Johnston’s main job from her central defensive position is to organize, play passes up to the midfielders, and stay vigilant against any budding counter-attacks. When the team faces tougher competition, as it will during the World Cup, it will be interesting to see if Johnston will be able to remain as physically dominant and mentally prepared as she has so far in her career. If she does, there’s no reason to think she won’t play every minute of the World Cup for team USA. Talking about careers, three goals for a central defender is a reasonable career total for some who play the position, but Johnston has already reached that number in only ten games. Watch for her leaping, aerial runs to the near post on corner kicks and free kicks. That’s where she’s done all her scoring so far.
Non-gendered personal interest item: Johnston led the U.S. Under-20 year-old national team to a championship in the 2012 U-20 World Cup. During that tournament, she played central defender, the same role she’ll play this year at the senior level, and captained the team. If Johnston helps the team capture what’s been an incredibly elusive World Cup victory, would anyone be surprised if four or eight years from now, Johnston was captain of the senior team and a fixture at the back?