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The Badger Herald

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Johnson shows growth after summer in Seattle

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After playing with several of the world’s best soccer players, Johnson (17), a senior defender/midfielder, has collected four assists this year but is still without a score of her own.[/media-credit]

After living in Wisconsin for her whole life, senior defender/midfielder and Wisconsin women’s soccer team captain Lindsey Johnson left her comfort zone and spent her summer in one of the most bustling cities in the United States: Seattle.

It’s one thing to go from Sussex, Wis., with a population just over 10,000 people to Seattle with a population 62 times larger than that in the city. But to play soccer on the same team as Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan – some of the best soccer players in the world – is an experience most could only dream of. Johnson lived that dream this summer.

She had just finished her third year at Wisconsin and was a defensive staple for the Badgers’ women’s soccer team, starting in all 20 matches and named to the second team all-Big Ten.

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Johnson then set her sights on the summer. She was planning to play soccer, but not sure where, and thanks to Wisconsin head coach Paula Wilkins, who encouraged Johnson, she took a chance and played in Seattle.

“I was thinking of playing somewhere else in the summer,” Johnson said. “I didn’t really know where I was going to go, but then Paula kind of pushed me to [go to Seattle]. She put the idea in my head, and I thought about it, and then I just went for it.”

So Wilkins put in a good word with head coach Michelle French and with that Johnson was on her way to play for the Seattle Sounders of the USL W-League.

Johnson remembers what it was like when she first landed in Seattle.

“When I first arrived, I was probably the most nervous I have ever been in my entire life,” Johnson said. “A guy that worked for the team picked me up at the airport. I was pretty much on the verge of freaking out right after I got on the plane, but as soon as I met him and met my host family and my team, the nerves went away pretty quickly.”

Johnson noticed professionalism was the biggest difference between her W-League team and college team. She said the practices weren’t too different from college, but noted the intensity of the games was above and beyond anything she had ever known.

She recalled an event in particular that set the tone for the rest of the summer.

“In my very first game, I remember there was a ball going out on the end-line for a corner for the other team, and there was no way I could have gotten to it to save the corner. So naturally I didn’t go for it. But I was screamed at because I didn’t attempt to save it – and that’s the moment I knew that this was going to be a completely different experience than I have ever before experienced.”

Johnson went on to play in eight of the team’s 15 games, tallying 378 minutes and a shot during the season. The Sounders ended the season with a record of 10-4-1.

The senior captain said playing in the W-League presented challenges she had never experienced before.

“It was definitely a different experience,” Johnson said. “First of all, in Seattle, the fans are outrageous. There were 4,500 people at every game… and that was ridiculous. I’ve never been in an environment like that.

“The pace and everything is higher. It’s just a different experience and playing with girls that have been in such a high [level of] environment – it makes me look forward to what I can do in the future.”

While in Seattle, Johnson had the opportunity to play with Solo, Morgan and Rapinoe because the U.S. professional women’s soccer league was suspended due to a financial dispute.

Johnson made relationships with some of the players there, hanging out with the team through various team-bonding exercises that included a team get together at Solo’s house for the Fourth of July.

Reflecting on the experience, she said just being able to be in a different city and playing alongside some of the best players in the world was an experience she will never forget.

“I’ve never been on my own like that in my entire life,” Johnson said. “It was really different living with a family that wasn’t my own, and then I had to play with players I wasn’t used to and be on a team that I wasn’t used to and coaches that I wasn’t used to. Then [to] play with players of that caliber was just outrageous.”

Senior midfielder Monica Lam-Feist, who is close with Johnson, says she can tell that her teammate’s time in Seattle was beneficial for her.

“I’m pretty close with LJ so I know that she has never really been outside her comfort zone before,” Lam-Feist said. “She’s never really played outside of Wisconsin so going to Seattle for a summer was a good experience for her. I definitely saw a side to her come out of her shell a bit. It was nice to see.”

This season, Johnson has started all 12 of UW’s games and is tied for the team lead in assists with four.

Wilkins says she can tell some good habits have rubbed off on Johnson after playing with such talented players over the summer.

“I think when you see how professional some people can be, I think that you can learn from that,” Wilkins said. “It’s pretty amazing to be in that culture. Obviously playing with the Alex Morgans and the Hope Solos of the world you see what they do day-in and day-out to become a better player, and I think that’s something that will be a great experience for her.”

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