In her colligate career Julie Johnston was a three-time Hermann Trophy semifinalist, a two-time First-Team All-American, captain of the U-20 World Cup champions, Bronze Ball winner and Glamour magazine named her one of the Top Ten College Women in 2013.
And she never even played soccer in high school.
But you don’t really need to have played high school soccer to go number three overall in the NWSL draft to the Chicago Red Stars.
The first of three draft picks by the Red Stars, Johnston could play important roles for her new team in the midfield and in the back. She has as exceptional experience on both lines.
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 leaves Santa Clara with 31 goals, 22 assists (86 overall points) and a long list of accolades.
In an interview with BleacherReport, Brandi Chastain, former USWNT defender and assistant coach at Santa Clara, said that she holds Johnston in the “highest esteem”
“She’s not only a hard-working player, but she loves the little things about the game. She’s becoming a better leader—she was a great leader for U-20’s. What I love about her is that she is as demanding of her players as she is of herself,” Chastain said.
What really put Johnston on the map was her position as captain, leading the U-20 Women’s Team to a World Cup title her junior year. She showed her defensive prowess as the team’s center back displaying her abilities to win the ball in the air and thwart the attack. The team only allowed one goal throughout the tournament.
“Julie was the driving force behind the (2012 U-20 World Cup winning) team,” Red Stars coach Rory Dames said in piece by The Equalizer. “And she has shown throughout her college days that she can play anywhere on the field and play well at any position.”
Johnston’s versatility is key and marks her as a standout player, able to take up a position anywhere running through the middle of the lineup.
She was able to briefly show this when she was called up to the senior team and received her first cap as a sub for Becky Sauerbrunn in February of 2013. Later in the year, Johnston received her second cap and garnered a start in the midfield earning a full 90 minutes against the Netherlands.
Since then she has been hard pressed to find playing time with the full team, but Coach Tom Sermanni continues to call the young defender into camps.
What To Expect:
In college she led her team offensively, at the national level she played key defensive roles, but how will the Chicago Red Stars use this versatile rookie?
Johnston could be taking the spot of another Santa Clara alum, Leslie Osborne, who recently announced her retirement from pro soccer ahead of the 2014 season.
Johnston’s ability to hold the ball at her feet and control the pace of the game makes her the perfect fit to succeed Osborne’s critical role.
“[Johnston] has a great defensive awareness. She sees the space around her, she anticipates where the player on the ball is going to play it, she sets her body up in a really good position. And, I am as impressed with her ability to win the ball as I am with her ability keep the ball,” Chastain said.
The defensive midfield position is one that requires a high soccer IQ and as Chastain believes it is a “mature position”.
Based on her credentials alone Johnston looks like she could take up the demands of the position, along with any other spot the Red Stars need her to fill.
You can see Johnston and the Red Stars at their season opener against Western New York Flash on April 19th, as part of a double header with the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park.