Johnson Playing In Second-Straight WPS Title Match

Aug. 26, 2011

LAWRENCE, Kan. – For the second-straight season, former Kansas soccer standout Estelle Johnson (2006-09) and the Philadelphia Independence will be playing in the Women’s Professional Soccer Championship match. Despite the long road to the title game, Johnson knew all along her team could reach the top once again.

“We are the hardest working team in the league and I think that’s what got us this far,” said Johnson. “On paper, we aren’t the best team in the league but our work ethic and drive have helped us win games. They say you play how you practice and our coach Paul (Riley) has created a winning environment in which we can work hard and excel.”

In order to get to the WPS championship game, Johnson and her teammates first had to overcome U.S. National Team star Abby Wambach and the South Florida magicJack. It was a daunting task but Philadelphia is used to taking on challenging jobs. Last year, during the team’s inaugural season, the Independence notched two overtime wins during the semifinals to advance to the 2010 championship game. This time around, however, Philadelphia needed just 90 minutes. Johnson started and played all 90 minutes at defense as the Independence shutout South Florida 2-0 last Saturday to propel the Independence to the title match.

“Guarding Abby is always a task but in order to take her out of her element a little bit, we played man-to-man on her,” said Johnson “We had Kia McNeill, one of our center-backs, stay with her as much as she could. She did an awesome job limiting Abby’s involvement and impact on the game. Abby is a very direct but extremely effective player who is difficult to shut down.”

Now, as Philadelphia gears up for the championship game, scheduled for Aug. 27 versus regular-season champion Western NY Flash, Johnson and the Independence are focusing to end their season on a high note.

“We just want to bring high energy and fight until the end of the game,” Johnson said of her team’s focus this week in practice. “We’ve always had a lot of heart and work ethic so we just plan on bringing that into the final.”

Johnson concluded, “My personal focus is just to do my best. This is our last game and 90 minutes determines our entire season. I’m going to do everything in my power to walk away from this game with a championship under my belt… and I’m crossing my fingers!”

Regardless of the outcome, Johnson, who started 13 of the 15 matches she played in this season, isn’t ready to stop playing yet. After her season with the Independence, the Fort Collins, Colo., native plans to prolong her season by playing overseas.