As the holiday quickly approaches, Orlando City’s front office continues to gift us with new players. Per Alicia DelGallo of the Orlando Sentinel, the Lions have agreed in principle to terms with midfielder Will Johnson, who helped lead Toronto FC to the 2016 MLS Cup final.
Orlando City has agreed to a deal with midfielder Will Johnson (Toronto/free agent) in principle, per sources. More details to come…
— Alicia Rose DelGallo (@OSAliciaD) December 21, 2016
DelGallo wrote in her story that the deal is expected to be announced by Friday, pending paperwork and league approval.
Johnson, 29, a free agent, spent his 2016 season with Toronto, making 29 appearances and scoring two goals to go along with six assists. The Reds fell just short to Seattle Sounders in this year’s championship, bowing out on penalty kicks. It would have been Johnson’s third MLS Cup title with three different teams. He also won the Cup with Portland in 2015 and Real Salt Lake — under Jason Kreis — in 2009.
Over 10 years in MLS, Johnson has made 212 appearances (193 starts), scoring 27 goals with 20 assists. His best statistical year was 2013 with Portland, when he scored nine goals with five assists in 28 games (all starts).
Johnson’s addition likely means someone making decent money has to go. To wit:
Johnson deal likely equals some cap maneuvering for Orlando City. I've heard Mateos won't return, but that means OCSC has to sell or buyout.
— Paul Tenorio (@PaulTenorio) December 22, 2016
Prior to joining Toronto for 2016, Johnson spent three years with the Portland Timbers, five years with Real Salt Lake, and one season with the Chicago Fire. He brings a combined total of 237 league matches, and nine trips to the postseason in his 10 MLS seasons. Johnson also played in the Netherlands for SC Heerenveen and De Grassfschap, both in the Dutch Eredivisie with 53 total appearances over two seasons.
The Toronto native was named to the 2009 MLS All-Star game and was voted to the 2013 AT&T MLS All-Star Fan XI vs. AS Roma at Sporting Park. He was also named to the 2013 MLS Best XI. In addition, Johnson scored the MLS Goal of the Year in 2008:
Beyond club play, Johnson has 41 caps for the Canadian national team. He has scored four goals, played in two FIFA tournaments, captained the Canadian team in 2013, and won Canadian Men’s Player of the Year in 2013. However, despite his time playing with the Canadian national team, he will not take up an international slot, as he has triple citizenship from Canada, the United States, and England.
Johnson’s familiarity with Jason Kreis’ system and the demands he makes of his players will be a valuable asset for Orlando City. The Canadian can act as an extra coach on the field, knowing where everyone should be at all times.
With Johnson in the midfield, should Kreis go back to the 4-4-2 diamond, it may cost someone playing time. Currently, the Lions boast costly midfield players like Kaká, Brek Shea, and Matias Perez Garcia, with the more moderately priced Kevin Molino also needing a spot on the field. However, the off-season isn’t over and some pieces still may be moved around before opening day.