ussoccer.com: You played 90 minutes in your first World Cup game. What are your overall thoughts on the Ghana game?
Kendall Johnson: “At the start of the game, I felt we were ready and had the fire in our eyes, but when the whistle blew were weren’t really on the same page and maybe we lacked some energy. As the game went on, we got more comfortable and in the second half we played a lot better. We had a lot of chances, we just didn’t finish them. We need to combine on our passing more during the game to make things easier for ourselves and that will be one of the goals against Switzerland.”
ussoccer.com: You had not been in the National Teams programs before this U-20 cycle. What qualities do you think got you noticed during your freshman season at the University of Portland?
KJ: “Probably my attitude, mostly. If I lose the ball, I will be the first one to try to win it back. I’m really competitive and I want to win. It was a big adjustment at first when I came to the national team. I kind of felt out of place, but as the camps went on I got more comfortable and I finally felt like I belonged.”
ussoccer.com: You are from Portland. You played club for F.C. Portland and you attend the University of Portland. What do you love about the Northwest?
KJ: “I like the nature and I like being outdoors. It also seems like people are just nice there. When you walk across the street, people stop their cars for you. It’s just so green and beautiful and it’s where I’ve grown up. I really don’t know much else. Plus, it doesn’t rain as much as people think it does. And of course I love the Portland Trailblazers. My family shares season tickets with another family so I go as much as I can.”
ussoccer.com: What are the keys to success in the upcoming Switzerland game?
KJ: “We need to be consistent for the entire game, not only in the energy we bring but also in our play. We have to play quickly in a nice rhythm and connect our passes and for sure finish the opportunities that we create. The team is in a good place right now. We can’t do anything about the Ghana game and everyone is excited to get one game under our belts and head into the Switzerland game with more confidence.”
ussoccer.com: U.S. head coach Jill Ellis asks her outside backs to get up the field and attack. You play outside midfield in college, so you must be fairly comfortable in that role?
KJ: “It helps a lot because I have the mentality from playing left mid to go forward. I really enjoy playing left back with the national team because Jill encourages us to get forward. When I see that there is space in front of me, I like to take it because I always want to be involved in the attack. Playing defender doesn’t mean that you are playing defense the whole time.”
ussoccer.com: You are majoring in Communications. Any idea what you might like to do in your post-soccer life?
KJ: “Not really, I’m just heading into my sophomore year, but the reason I majored in communications is that I’ve had some interest in advertising. I like the creative part of the field and my uncle does ad work for the NBA. I shadowed him one time when he did a commercial shoot and I got to meet a few of the players. Pro sports seems to be a fun business to work in.”
ussoccer.com: What have been some of the things you’ve enjoyed about the World Cup so far?
KJ: “It’s just a completely new experience getting to play in such a big tournament for my country. It’s amazing to be able to play in the atmosphere we had at the stadium. It was the coolest place I’ve ever played in during my life. It’s also been fun spending time with my teammates and just getting closer to everyone and knowing that we are all here for one goal and that we would do anything for each other.”
ussoccer.com: It’s been incredibly hot in Germany. Is it tough to adjust for a Northwest girl?
KJ: “Being in New York for our pre-World Cup Camp where it was way hotter helped a lot. Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about the heat during the game so we are coping well with it.”
ussoccer.com: You probably haven’t been doing much but going to school and playing soccer this year, but what are some of your off-field interests?
KJ: “The Portland Trailblazers! And I started playing the guitar, but then I stopped, but I want to pick it up again. I am not a big reader, but I’ve been reading a little bit this summer to try to get more intellectual. Like most college kids, I like just hanging out with my friends.”
ussoccer.com: What’s your favorite healthy food and favorite food that maybe isn’t so healthy?
KJ: “I like eating healthy so pretty much anything my mom makes. It all depends on what I am in the mood for. My favorite not so healthy thing is ice cream and moist, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven with a cold glass of milk.”
ussoccer.com: You demonstrated your rapping skills during a team sing-off earlier in this trip. Perhaps you have a future on the mic?
KJ: “If I’ve got Rachel ‘Dr.’ Quon on the beats, anything is possible.”