Portland Timbers midfielder and Canadian international Will Johnson will be out for the foreseeable future after undergoing a minor procedure Wednesday to remove two screws in his right tibia, broken more than a year ago in a match against Toronto FC.
But the club’s captain told media Thursday that he’s hoping it’s the last step in his recovery form the injury that kept him out until midway through this season and that he could still return in some form to contribute to Portland’s playoff push with four remaining regular-season games remaining starting at home Saturday against Sporting Kansas City (7:30 pm PT; KPDX).
“I know that the level I got back to wasn’t good enough to win playoff games, and that was the ultimate deciding factor to me, that if I could go through the procedure and maybe put in some more hard work and get back fitter, stronger, faster, better version of what I came back the first time,” Johnson said from the team training facility. “I think that’s the best-case scenario for everybody.”
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Since returning to action in late May, Johnson has made 12 appearances – all starts – and recently played with Canada in two World Cup qualifiers against Belize, but he has been in and out of the lineup while dealing with effects from the injury. He most recently missed the Timbers' Sept. 9 match against Kansas City and last weekend’s meeting with Columbus Crew SC to rest his leg.
He said he made the decision early this week to have the surgery.
“I just didn’t have full range of motion and explosiveness because the screws were restricting my motion,” Johnson said. “I was 10 percent [off] the best version of myself, and 10 percent at this level is a lot.”
Johnson said there’s no definitive timeline set for his return, but he hopes to be back at training soon, if not game action.
“At the very least just pushing guys ahead of me to be better,” Johnson said. “I want to try to get back to training and see where I’m at, but obviously at this point of the year you’re not going to do a lot of tinkering with your team, and the guys played well in Columbus.
“Time will tell. There are no guarantees with this injury as I’ve found out throughout this past year. I’m positive, and a lot of hard work will go into it. And we’ll see what happens.”
In Johnson’s stead, veteran Jack Jewsbury has drawn rave reviews from head coach Caleb Porter, especially in the team’s 2-1 win Saturday over Crew SC and their scoreless draw against SKC. Second-year pro George Fochive has also filled in at central midfield, making seven starts.
“That just shows what this club is all about, depth, teammates, when one guy goes down another guys steps up,” Johnson said.
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.