Toronto FC: Is Will Johnson Set to Leave After the Season?

Jun 25, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Toronto FC forward Will Johnson (7) dribbles the ball against the Orlando City SC during the first half at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 25, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Toronto FC forward Will Johnson (7) dribbles the ball against the Orlando City SC during the first half at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

With Will Johnson seeing less time in the Toronto FC lineup recently, the midfielder is ready to explore free agency once the playoffs conclude.

Toronto FC got off to a disastrous start in Montreal on Tuesday night, before picking themselves up off the floor and scoring two crucial away goals. Taking everything into account, the Reds must be feeling fairly optimistic heading into next week’s second leg at BMO Field.

Will Johnson did his part, coming on in the 57th minute when TFC were down 3-0 and helping to lead the comeback. Regardless, Johnson is not happy with the recent turn of events, which has seen him start games on the substitutes bench.

The Canadian international’s arrival before the 2016 campaign via a trade, was seen as a signifcant coup for Toronto FC. Along with Drew Moor, his addition was perceived as confirmation of TFC’s intent to build a consistent contender.

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However, things have not gone as planned for Johnson this season. At one point, he was forced to miss seven weeks of action, after suffering a bone fracture in his left leg.

Of more concern for the 29-year old, is his contributions in recent weeks, after previously being a regular in the lineup, with 19 starts. He made just one substitute appearance in October and has had to settle for coming off the bench in each of TFC’s four playoff games.

As a result, Johnson is debating his future with the Reds after just one season. He sees his recent lack of action as a huge negative and not the reason why he came to Toronto.

Speaking to the Toronto Sun‘s Kurt Larson ahead of Tuesday’s first leg in Montreal, the three-time MLS All-Star said: “In 20 days I could be playing for a new team.

To be fair though, Johnson quickly adds: “But, today, I’m playing for Toronto. I love it here. My teammates are awesome.”

Interesting, the Toronto native faced a similar situation in Portland, making just one brief appearance during the Timbers charge to the MLS Cup last season. This made quite a difference to his previous playoff run with the team in 2013, when he scored two goals and added one assist in four starts.

Not one to be easily beaten, Johnson has done his best to adjust to recent circumstances: “When the national team guys have been gone, I’ve been around, pushing training and games. To be missing out on this part of the season is extremely difficult for me.”

Toronto FC
Nov 22, 2016; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Toronto FC midfielder Will Johnson (7) controls the ball beside Montreal Impact midfielder Patrice Bernier (8) in the first leg of the MLS Eastern Conference Championship at Olympic Stadium. Montreal won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

Further, it’s not as if the midfielder is sulking and moping around: “(Head coach Greg Vanney) doesn’t need to talk to me about (playing time)…We’ve had conversations about what he wants me to do, given the team he’s riding right now.

“I’m willing to do whatever I have to do. I’m proud that I have been able to execute that and he’s happy with me, but obviously I’m looking for a bigger role.”

Along those lines, it’s hard to argue with Johnson’s mindset. There are so many professional athletes out there who are happy to do as little as possible and just pick up their pay check.

The 2013 Canadian Player of the Year will wait until after the season to decide what he wants to do. He is in a strong position as he’s eligible for free agency, due to being over 28 and having at least eight years of service in MLS.

Johnson said: “At this point, I’m going to explore free agency – I might as well. Things can change quickly but, straight up, I have no idea what I’m going to do next year.”

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What’s your opinion on Johnson’s contribution to TFC this season? Do you want to see him remain in Toronto, or are you not too concerned either way? Let us know in the comments section.