Orlando City is in the midst of its best start to a season in MLS since the club’s arrival in the League two years ago. Many factors have contributed to the team’s strong 2017 campaign thus far, but midfield anchor Will Johnson reflects on where it all started to for the Lions.
“While it’s not always been perfect, we’re a group that has stuck through some periods where we’ve bent a little bit, we’ve been under some pressure, and we’ve had to weather some storms in games. But that willingness to continue to put in the work and stick to the identity that we all came up with in Jacksonville has been impressive,” Johnson told Orlando City reporter Mackenzie Thirkill in an exclusive interview. “Margins in Major League Soccer are small. It’s a competitive league and parity reigns supreme so you have to always be willing to stick together and outwork and outcompete your opponent.”
Johnson referenced Jacksonville, the site of Orlando City’s preseason camp, a few times in the interview. After significant reshuffling of the roster and new faces coming into the club, it was important for the group to become just that – a group.
“A lot of hard work needed to be done. Figuring out who we were going to be and the group that we were going to have, and what it was all going to look like,” Johnson explained. “It was a good way to start the year just to kind of break the ice and do a bunch of things together and just get to know new guys,” he continued. “Every season is unique and different in terms of personnel. So to see all those things coming together during the first two weeks of the season made it easy to get to know everyone much quicker.”
Team chemistry is preeminent in a sport where togetherness can be the difference between winning and losing. Orlando City forged a team-first, winning mentality during their preseason camp. The team’s ability to look back on the foundation that was built in February helps them stay focused on the goal this season: earn a playoff spot and compete for MLS Cup.
As for Will Johnson, the two-time MLS Cup winner is finding new sources of inspiration in the 13th year of his esteemed career. Orlando City reporter Mackenzie Thirkill asked Johnson what continues to motivate him as a player:
“New challenges. New guys coming into the league who don’t quite understand what it takes yet. This city is one that has never made the playoffs and is starving for success. You never take for granted how hard it is to win games in this League and how much work you have to be willing to put in. To share that message with a group that hasn’t done it before and for guys who haven’t been around successful teams in this League or other leagues, it’s a fun thing to be able to share.