She had finally been given her chance, and she capitalized in a big way.
SEE MORE — Meet the 23 players on the US squad at Women’s World Cup (videos).
“She’s had an amazing tournament,” Ellis said at the tournament’s conclusion. “Opportunity has knocked, and she’s responded really well. It makes our job hard but in a way makes our job easy because we’ve got great depth at that position and now she’s gained experience she didn’t have in these games.”
Her performance in the Algarve was not a one and done deal. She returned to the U.S. in a pair of friendlies where she continued to start on the backline and add two more goals.
Her play in those two months left no room for doubt that despite a mere 13 caps (fewest of any field player), she would be a starting center back in the World Cup.
She has played every minute of the tournament thus far and is one game away from a World Cup title at 23 years old. The opportunistic Johnston has shown maturity, composure and veteran-like experience well beyond her years in this tournament — even earning recognition as Player of the Match in the U.S.’s last group game against Nigeria.
The U.S. defense has virtually proven that defense wins championships and the partnership of Becky Sauerbrunn and Johnston has provided reliability in the face of so much offensive inconsistency. They have made themselves a dynamic duo as two of the most complete defenders the U.S. has had in recent years.
These past six months have only given us a small glimpse into the type of player we will be seeing in Johnston for years to come. She has the potential to become a core player and a vital piece for the U.S, and in the distance it is not hard to imagine a captain’s armband for this defender.
While playing in the U-20 Women’s World Cup, Johnston received a letter expressing words of encouragement from U.S. Captain Christie Rampone. Later that year when the U.S. was playing in her home state, Johnston was able to sit and talk with Rampone in an exchange that felt like the torch was being passed.
Rampone knew then what we are seeing now.
“Don’t doubt yourself, you’ll be here and I’ll be watching,” Rampone said.
Well now the world is watching — watching today when the Johnston and the U.S. take on Japan in the final of the Women’s World Cup and eagerly watching to see what else this young defender will bring to the U.S. team.