He was in the starting line-up back in late April when the South Sound FC Shock made their debut in the Evergreen Premier League. He spent a few months in Sweden with a club there. He returned and made the squad for Seattle Impact FC of the Major Arena Soccer League. He was one of 22 players to resign from that squad due to operational and moral issues. Now he’s landed back with the Tacoma Stars who are helping launch the Western Indoor Soccer League. Derek was with the PASL Stars as a teenager.
So, how to commemorate the year? How about back-to-back WISL Player of the Week honors for the 22-year-old? That is just what has happened after Johnson scored 5 goals in Wenatchee on December 13 and backed that performance up with 4 more goals on December 20th as Tacoma hosted the Arlington Aviators.
The Player of the Week in the WISL for December 20 is Tacoma Star Derek Johnson.
“Derek wants to take soccer to the highest level he can,” says Darren Sawatzky, who as head coach of the Tacoma Stars and the Sounders U23 of the PDL has been around Derek for quite some time. “He had some opportunities this past summer and fall to take his game to the next level and you are seeing that experience in his game here with the Stars.”
The Tacoma v. Arlington match was one where the visiting Aviators thought it was best to defend first. This challenged the Stars to be both patient and creative. “Derek took advantage of a team sitting in from the start,” says Sawatzky. “Every opening is a chance to shoot when teams defend near their goal and Derek was clinical in his execution.”
Johnson put the Stars up with a blast from the left side in the first quarter. He kept on scoring a bit later when he found a loose ball, this time to the right of the Arlington goal, and he smashed it past Arlington goalkeeper Erik Cruz. Derek’s third goal was a measure in effort and determination. Again he intercepted a loose Arlington pass at the top of the penalty box. This time he worked right and the ball bounced up, catching between his legs. Johnson hopped, brought the ball along, then made a deft touch to himself before firing back across the goal and into the net. Derek’s fourth goal wasn’t as climactic. It came on a dribbler tapped in from the left post near the wall.
Johnson now leads all WISL scorers with 11 goals. He’s played just three league matches for the Stars.
Some might see Derek’s “El Tigre” (The Tiger) flair and goal celebration roll as cocky, but that really isn’t his nature. He’s got big smiles for all of his fellow Stars’ successes.
“Derek is a hard-working, young player for the Stars but he has experience at this level,” Sawatzky concludes. “Derek knows what it takes to score goals indoors and he is an incredible team-mate willing to do the work for others while accumulating stats.”
Previous Players of the Week: Danny Romero, Willie Spurr, Andrew Weishaar, Derek Johnson.
Goal Sequence: Johnson’s fourth goal was all about hard work and tight angles. (Wilson Tsoi)