Jamaican international striker Ryan Johnson is predicting 'a lot of goals' this season, after bagging a hat-trick for his new Major League Soccer (MLS) club, Portland Timbers, in a 3-3 draw with San Josť Earthquakes in a preseason football game on Sunday night at the Jeld-Wen Field in Oregon, United States.
Johnson, who was acquired in a trade with Toronto FC last December, scored twice in the first half and completed his hat-trick in the second. Johnson couldn't have asked for a better debut on his home field in a Timbers uniform.
"I don't think I can remember scoring a hat-trick. I haven't done that in a while," Johnson was quoted in The Oregonian newspaper. "With the offence that we have and the way that we approach attacking the ball, we're going to score a lot of goals this year," the Reggae Boyz striker said. "I expect to score a lot of goals this year."
The goals would have been encouraging for Portland Timbers' coach Caleb Porter and General Manager Gavin Wilkinson, who has experimented with two different forwards - Kenny Cooper and Kris Boyd - in each of the first two seasons, without any success.
Johnson might just be the answer. He possesses the pace to stretch defences and run down long balls, while having enough strength to maintain possession, giving his teammates time to get into attacking positions.
"It was great for him to get off to a good start - open the floodgate, hopefully. He's a guy that's going to work for 90 minutes and fight and do all the little things that we need him to do; kind of a spearhead of our attack," Porter told The Oregonian. "We have a lot of little technical players that can create the game, but we need a guy that can finish the game."
Johnson is said to be developing some nice chemistry with winger Darlington Nagbe and attacking central midfielder Diego Valerli.
"For our attack to be gelling and clicking like it is (with) four weeks to go into the season is very pleasing," Porter said. "Typically, that's the part of your team that takes a little bit of time. It's ahead of where I thought."
Johnson said he is not surprised that the front line players are finding their rhythm so early in the season.
"I'm not surprised about how quickly it came together. The passes - all those little things are going to be on a point," Johnson said. "We gelled pretty quickly during the first week of training."
Johnson was lauded for his role in Jamaica's historic 0-0 draw against Mexico in a World Cup qualifier at the high-altitude Estadio Azteca in Mexico City some two weeks ago.
He has represented Real Salt Lake, Chicago Fire, San Josť Earthquakes and Toronto FC in the MLS, before moving to Portland Timbers. Johnson has scored eight goals in 31 appearances for the Reggae Boyz.
- Marc Stamp