National team head coach Thomas Kojo said he was impressed with the performance of debutant Joel Johnson in the Lone Star Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against DR Congo on Sunday, September 9, at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville, outside Monrovia.
Defender Johnson, a right-back, was part of coach Kojo’s starting lineup when the Lone Star played to a 1-1 stalemate against DR Congo in the country’s second match in Group D of the Nations Cup.
A late goal from DR Congo’s substitute Elia Meschak helped the Leopards salvage a point after Liberia skipper William Jebor scored the opener in the 62 minute.
“From my own analysis, he did extremely well, despite playing in Africa for the first time. Defensively, he played so well by following all my instructions, so I was impressed and I hope he will maintain his good performance in the future,” Coach Kojo said.
He added, “Rating him out of ten, I will grade him eight.”
Born September 20, 1992 in Torrent, Valencia, to a Liberian father and a Spanish mother, Johnson currently plays for North American club Charlotte Independence.
The right-back, who will be turning 26 on September 20, gained the admiration of thousands of supporters, who turned out to watch the national team play, expressing admiration at Joel’s brilliant touches and ball control in the right-back position.
Johnson was among 11 foreign-based players that Coach Kojo invited in August for the DR Congo clash.
Joel was a product of Valencia CF’s youth system and made his senior debut at 17, appearing with the reserves in the third division, and eventually suffered relegation.
On March 8, 2010, as both right-backs in the first team, Bruno and Miguel, were unavailable, Joel made his first La Liga appearance, playing the full 90 minutes in a 0–0 home draw against Racing de Santander.
Released on June 30, 2012, Joel went on to compete solely in the lower leagues. Later, on April 6, 2016, he signed with United Soccer League side Charlotte Independence.
In another development, coach Kojo said the team can do better if much effort is shown to improve the national league.
“Our league is poorly run, and we play against players from top rated leagues. But our young players were able to compete with those players. What if we start to invest in our young players?” Kojo rhetorically remarked.
The Lone Star dominated the match, but later exhibited a poor performance due to what coach Kojo described as “the players’ lack of concentration.”