goalWA.net continues a special series of features today with a visit with forward / midfielder Derek Johnson. Derek is one of the guys who has put on the shirt of the South Sound Football Club. SSFC (“The “Shock”) is a grass-roots community club that has been able to do remarkable things in the greater Tacoma area. The club has played indoors and out, gone to nationals in various competitions and in the summer of 2014 was a founding member of the Evergreen Premier League (EPLWA). John Crouch, the club’s owner, is most proud of the chance his club gives players to take their game to the next level. Here’s our fifth chat with an SSFC player: Made in South Sound: Derek Johnson.
In a very real sense forward / midfielder Derek Johnson’s soccer career has grown up with the South Sound Shock. He’s gone from high school (Franklin Pierce) to college (Pacific Lutheran) to a tryout overseas during his time with SSFC.
“I started playing with SSFC in 2011 when we started our PASL-Premier team. Many of the original players for SSFC were former Tacoma Stars players, including myself. John Crouch pulled us all together and we started the indoor team,” Derek tells us. Johnson won two “Player of the Week” awards from goalWA.net in the 2012-13 season.
“On the outdoor side of things, I started a US Club Soccer U20 team after my first college season. We played a regional league with clubs in Washington and Idaho. After the indoor season, John and I worked together to transition that team into to the first SSFC U23 team. That summer we competed in the USASA National Cup for the first time. Eventually this team became the EPLWA side.”
Derek knows that his experiences with South Sound have played an important role. He took that knowledge and skill with him on a recent tryout in Sweden.”Playing for SSFC allowed me to learn from older, more experienced players and to play soccer year-round. I believe my development was accelerated by being around high level players consistently. In Sweden (read a Tacoma Weekly feature on Johnson’s trip here), players as young as 15, 16 years old are given the opportunity to play with 25, 26 year olds and learn from them. When they see the level, it is easier for them to emulate it. What those kids are experiencing is exactly what I experienced with SSFC. I was able to understand what the next level was like and apply it in my play.”
Johnson is not a big fan of “time off” from soccer. So the Shock became an important part of every-season play. “SSFC gave me an avenue to play year round,” Derek says. “I think the biggest inhibitor for college soccer players is the off-season. Many of my teammates would play the two and a half month season, then not compete for 4-5 months or longer. My opportunity with SSFC allowed me to never take an offseason during my college years. There was never a point in my college career where I wasn’t preparing for a competition.”
Derek looks indoors to list his top moment with the Shock. “My favorite memories in a Shock kit are from the 2012 PASL playoffs. The atmosphere in Gig Harbor was electric and I was able to score some important goals for the team as we defeated Kitsap and Bellingham. Then at nationals, scoring 4 goals against Las Vegas is a memory that really stands out.”
Now he’s got memories of a European trip, too. “Sweden was a very cool experience. I lived with 3 other Americans and a Serb in the Swedish countryside. Our club (IFK Stockaryd/Rörviks IF) had a difficult season, but we were able to get a very good result recently in our last game. Being there gave me time to improve my game and set new goals. It was nice to be without distractions and focus on being a football player.”
Derek’s trip to Sweden is a taste for him of how the world speaks football. “Immersing myself in the football culture has been eye opening. Every town tere, regardless of size, has their own club, field and facility. The community there really embraces our team and has a passion for the game. It is much different than America, but I think EPLWA is on the right track.”
What’s next for Derek? He’s back home and looking towards Kent, WA to see if he can stick with the new Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) in the area. “I start training camp with Seattle Impact on October 13, but nothing has been made official there. I’m hoping to have some trials in the United States over the winter and spring to see where I’ll end up outdoor. My goal is to continue playing professionally whether it is in the US or overseas.”
UPDATE: Derek came into his own as an indoor star, leading The Tacoma Stars in goals in the WISL and MASL in 2014-15.
Interview with Derek Johnson from February 2013:
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