AURORA, Ontario — Nashville SC defender Alistair Johnston has been named Canada Soccer’s player of the month for September.
Johnston was a contributing factor in Canada’s three World Cup qualifying matches in September, playing every minute of all three matches, resulting in back-to-back draws against Honduras and the United States before shutting down El Salvador 3-0.
The 22-year-old defender from Aurora, Ontario, was originally born in Vancouver, yet settled in Aurora with his family at the age of 7. He was 16 when he made his Canadian youth program debut at an under-18 camp in 2015. He then joined Vaughan SC, helping the club win a 2015 OYSL U-18 League title.
Patrice Gheisar, Vaughan SC’s technical director of high performance, has known Johnston since he was eight.
“He’s very mature,” Gheisar said. “He was a man at 16 years old in the way he communicated and talked. The problem with Alistair is he is so good at so many things, you kind of take advantage of him. … He’s made the best of everything, as he usually does.”
Searching for a bigger challenge, both in soccer and academically, Johnston decided to attend Wake Forest University in 2018, where he grew exceptionally as a player and had some of his self-described favourite moments of his collegiate career.
His best moment came against UC Santa Barbara in the NCAA tournament quarterfinal when Johnston, taking the ball near the sideline, dribbled through six defenders – nutmegging two of them – before scoring.
The goal came in Johnston’s final game at Spry Stadium, home of Wake Forest soccer.
“That’ll probably go down as arguably my favourite collegiate moment,” Johnston said. “I’ll definitely remember that for a long time. It was a pretty cool way to go out.”
Wake Forest coach, Bobby Muuss (pronounced Muce), had great praise for Johnston during his time with the team.
“He’s a student of the game, he’s a soccer junkie,” he said. “He’s a guy that any coach would love to have in the locker room in terms of what he brings to your team in personality, work rate, professionalism, ambition. … What he did for the long-term culture of this group is something I’ll be indebted to him for life.”
Muuss says he decided to bring Johnston on board even though the team didn’t require a player of his position at the time. He claims he told his staff he wanted the Canadian, “because he’s going to add something to our team.”
Johnston will continue to bring his undying passion for the sport as a member of Nashville SC when they travel to Audi Field to play their next match against D.C. United on Saturday, Oct. 16. The match will be available to stream live at 7:30 p.m. EST on MLS LIVE on DAZN.
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