As the Earthquakes prepare to improve upon last season’s last-place finish in the Western Conference, MLSsoccer.com sat down with Ryan Johnson, San Jose’s leading scorer last season with a career-high 11 goals.
Q: Last season you had 11 goals. Is that the bar for you now?
A: Yeah, it’s definitely the bar. I always look to do better than I did last year. So that’s the bar that I’ve set and I’ve got to beat that.
Q: How do you beat that?
A: Just hard work. If you don’t put the hard work in, it’s just not going to happen. I’ve put a lot of hard work in just to get there, so I’ve got to do just as much or even more to get better.
Q: What have you added to your arsenal this year?
A: Confidence. More experience. That’s pretty much it. Those are the key tools to be successful in this league, and continue on in my future.
Q: Where does the confidence show up on the pitch?
A: Knowing what I’m going to do when I get (the ball), being more confident to try to get the ball in certain places where I wasn’t trying to get it last year. Just little things like that. Confidence changes the way that you play. It gives you more time on the ball. You see things a little bit quicker than you probably were before, because you were thinking about other things when you got the ball. It really shows in my individual game, and I feel it in my game.
Q: We haven’t seen much of Eduardo so far. How will you and he mesh?
A: Well, we’ll see. He has to earn his way into the squad first. If we’re winning games, I don’t think much will change. It’s on him as an individual to earn his place, and we’ll see how it goes from there.
Q: When a team signs a guy to play up top, do you take that as a personal challenge?
A: Always, because it’s a guy that could potentially play over you, so you have to show that you’re better than that guy, and that’s the reality to the business. We’re all friends at the end of the day, but I don’t want to be on the bench, either. You have to put friendships aside to be playing.
Q: What are some weaknesses you’ve worked on, as a team, since last season?
A: Having more of an attacking midfielder, so we have that in Javier (Robles, signed on March 1). Just somebody that can link up with the forwards a little bit more, where I don’t have to hold onto the ball as much. I have somebody where I can play the ball off one time, or two-touch and spin off, those things. I don’t have to exert so much energy.
Q: Does that free you up to make more runs?
A: Yeah, it frees you up to make more runs because we’re going to keep the ball more in the offensive end. So I don’t have to worry about flicking balls on from the defense so much, or making 40-yard runs, things like that. I can just make a 10-yard run and be through to goal. Those things make a big difference. It also needs more energy from the defense to defend.
Q: Where is this team, mentally?
A: We’re on a high, because of how well we’ve done in preseason, but we’ve had very good preseasons in years before [which didn’t carry over], so we’ve got to forget about that. We know that it’s a blank sheet, and that’s how we’ve got to treat it. We’ve got to be confident, but at the same time, we have to be assertive.