I spoke with Dynamo rookie Jason Johnson here in Charleston this weekend. The Jamaican forward was selected by the Dynamo in the first round (No. 13 overall) of January's MLS SuperDraft out of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he was named Atlantic 10 Offensive Player of the Year in 2012 after scoring a league-high 13 goals. The Generation adidas striker shared his thoughts on a variety of topics after spending a month with his new club.
Pedersen: You are now four weeks into your first professional preseason. How is it going so far?
Johnson: It has been fun. As much as I’d like to be as fit as possible and playing my best soccer, it is a process. I am still training hard and working hard and trying to learn from the elders on the team, and try to fit in with the team, on and off the field.
Q: What feedback have you received so far from teammates and coaches?
A: I’ve received a lot of feedback after every game. It is important to take what they have told me, and use it when I play. Especially from Dom (Kinnear), I’ve had really good feedback from him. Some things I need to work on as a striker, most of which are not natural instincts, because of my style of play. But playing in this league, you have to do those simple things, like holding the ball, taking a few touches and playing simple…being more patient, getting into the box, and those little things that I’m trying to do.
Q: You have joined a team with a very decorated group of forwards, including Brian Ching, Will Bruin and fellow Jamaican Omar Cummings. How is it to be part of that group in your rookie season?
A: As much as I would like to play (right now), to be under the wings of these forwards is amazing. Some might say the difficulty to get playing time will be a negative, but I see it as a blessing in disguise. I think that with the talent I have, and the guidance from the other forwards, it will give me an even better opportunity to be effective when I get the chance to play.
Q: Your nickname is “JJ.” Who gave you the nickname?
A: It is from high school (Manchester High School, Jamaica). Before, I was called Jason, but in high school my friends began calling me JJ.
Q: Do you have any siblings? Did they impact your soccer career?
A: I have two older brothers and I pretty much followed in their footsteps. My oldest brother (Shevarrio) played track and field and cricket, and a little soccer here and there. I fell in love with soccer through my other brother (Kemar), because he loved soccer more than other sports.
Q: You moved to the United States for college, and played soccer at VCU. What were your goals when you moved to the U.S.?
A: I have a passion for the game, and at the same time, to have an opportunity to help my family is one of the big reasons why I am here. I am also here to give back to the fans and the organization and try and improve each day.
Q: You made your debut for the Jamaican national team in 2010, at just 19 years old. How was that experience?
A: Playing for your home country is amazing. If you ask any player who grew up with soccer as their number one passion, you would probably get the same answer. To represent your country at such a tender age, I felt really blessed because I was the youngest player on that trip. Just making the trip to Argentina with the team, and the interest the coaching staff had in me, gave me a lot of confidence.
Q: You are the fourth member of a Jamaican contingent of players with the Dynamo. How helpful has it been to have them around just three months removed from college soccer?
A: We knew each other before I moved to the U.S. because we were in the same national team camp for the game against Argentina. So when I arrived in Houston, it was like nothing had changed and that they saw me yesterday. They have told me what I should and should not do, and I am grateful for that. They have told me what the league is all about, so I am happy for that.
Q: Some observers have suggested you “fell” to the Dynamo in the draft at No. 13. Do you view that as a possible blessing given their continued success, and the group of forwards you’ll learn from?
A: I was amazed and surprised when they selected me. At the end of the day, it didn’t really matter where I was picked. What matters to me is entering the league and performing, and working hard. Being selected by the Dynamo helped boost my confidence. I am just happy and thankful to play on such a good team.
Q: How does the Dynamo style of play compare to your team at VCU?
A: There are a lot of similarities. Back in college, we liked to possess the ball and play high pressure, so that was not new for me here. Our coach (Dave Giffard) had a similar mentality to Dom (Kinnear): Hard work; and that it doesn’t matter if you make a mistake, it is what you do after the mistake. The biggest thing for me is just the environment, moving from college, where I was part of a core group of guys, to being a rookie here. You have to start the process all over again. But it is no problem for me, I have a humble background from my family, and I am just learning here.
Q: Do you have any goals for your rookie season?
A: I am not going to say them (laughs)! I would jinx myself. I just want to be there for my teammates, on and off the field, and help in any way I can.