In 2012, Julie Johnston won the Bronze Ball in the U-20 Women’s World Cup. On Thursday, it was announced that she would have the chance to turn that Bronze Ball into a golden one.
The 22-year-old has been the breakout star of the 2015 Women’s World Cup for her work on the U.S. Women’s National Team‘s back line. She has played a critical role in the U.S. keeping a clean sheet for 513 straight minutes in the tournament. While the entire U.S. defense has had several standout performances, it is the young Johnston, whose stock has risen the most this past month, who has been catching everyone’s attention. And now today she has the opportunity to win the Golden Ball trophy, an honor given to the best player of the tournament.
Johnston is one of the most promising young prospects the U.S. has had in the last decade, but it took almost two years for her to break into the national team.
The Arizona native was used primarily in the midfield at Santa Clara University. In her four years as a Bronco, Johnston led her team each year in either goals or assists. She left Santa Clara with 31 goals, 22 assists (86 overall points) and a long list of accolades.
She was a three-time Hermann Trophy semifinalist, a two-time First-Team All-American and one of Glamour magazine’s Top Ten College Women in 2013.
Her collegiate career was highlighted in 2012 where she captained that U-20 Women’s World Cup team to a championship and picked up the tournament’s Bronze Ball (a rarity for a defender to receive that kind of recognition in a major tournament). Later that year, U.S. Soccer named Johnston its Young Female Athlete of the Year.
In an interview with Bleacher Report, Brandi Chastain, former USWNT defender and assistant coach at Santa Clara, said that she holds Johnston in the “highest esteem.”
“She’s the kind of player the U.S. needs. She can be physically dominant in the air, on the ground, in a tackle, she’s hard, she’s strong, but she’s also skillful like Tobin Heath. She’s got great composure on the ball, she loves playing under pressure, and that is not something that’s been that prevalent on the national team for a while,” said Chastain.
As her days as a Bronco came to an end, Johnston made the transition to a professional career in the NWSL with the Chicago Red Stars, where she was taken third overall in the 2014 draft.