Puyallup: Sports

Johnston’s composure between posts gives Puyallup upper hand

The Puyallup High boys soccer program has been lucky in getting incredible play from its goalkeepers over the last few seasons.

For years, Jack Rose (now playing at Pacific Lutheran University) was entrenched between the posts, stuffing opponents and helping the Vikings claim last season’s 4A SPSL South Division title. Rose is gone and in steps Jake Johnston — Puyallup’s newest enforcer.

“We’ve been fortunate to have some calm and composed keeps the last couple of years,” Puyallup coach Matt White said. “Last year with Jack Rose and this year with Jake … they are calm people that let their teammates know, ‘No, no. I got this.’”

Already into Puyallup’s (2-0-3) short season so far, Johnston has been exactly what White was hoping for as he has stood tall against strong opponents.

The recent performances by Johnston, well, it’s just a lesson learned from watching one of the state’s best.

“I learned a lot from watching Jack go through his work,” Johnston said. “Watching him helped me learn what I can be doing to prepare during practice, or how I communicate with my team — he really helped prepare me to take over.”

Humble but determined is what defines Johnston; he’s shown the ability to be one of this year’s most dominating goalies in the 4A classification. After a shutout of 3A Sumner (1-0, March 21) and a tie with 4A KingCo’s Skyline (1-1, March 26), Johnston is on the right track.

“We had a 1-0 score in hand against Skyline, but in the last 30 seconds they tied the game,” White said. “That wasn’t on Jake … they just made a play through the defense and got a goal when they needed it.”

In Puyallup’s 3-1 win March 27 at Bethel, Johnston was just not himself early in the game. About the halfway mark in the first half, Bethel’s Quentin Main popped a shot at Johnston that the Vikings’ goalkeeper couldn’t handle.

The ball bounced through Johnston’s hands and trickled into the goal for a 1-0 Bethel lead.

“I just didn’t get a good grip on the ball,” Johnston said. “That one’s on me. But it’s not about what’s in the past, it’s about what going to happen. There was still a lot of game left, and I try to stay focused on that task.”

Johnston’s moment came after midfielder Brayan Torres scored in the 61st minute, bringing Puyallup to a 1-1 tie.

“He gives us (midfielders) confidence because we know he has our backs,” Torres said of Johnston. “And I think we give him confidence knowing he doesn’t have to do it all.”

Right after Torres’ goal, Bethel midfielder Leo Muchiri took off on a breakaway, giving him a one-on-one matchup with Johnston.

Instead of guessing how Muchiri was going to attack the goal, Johnston charged the Braves midfielder and hit a sliding tackle at the top of the box to force it out on Bethel. It was the only action Johnston saw in the second half.

“There’s always something I can be doing during games,” Johnston said. “I’m the only player who can see the whole field, so I have to communicate and keep our defense organized. That play was me seeing the chance to be aggressive.”

“The thing about this team is they play smart, and they play together,” White said. “Jake knows when to be aggressive like on that play … it’s the confidence as a team to make those kinds of plays.”

With Johnston manning the posts, Puyallup looks to be too tough to dethrone in the SPSL South.