Jan. 11, 2005
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Brian Johnson, who spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach for the Ohio State men’s soccer team, has been named an assistant coach for the new Major League Soccer franchise Real Salt Lake. With the move, Johnson returns to the professional ranks where he spent six seasons as a player from 1996-2002, with five of those seasons coming as a member of the Kansas City Wizards. Johnson helped lead that club to the 2000 MLS Cup championship.
Alongside Ohio State head coach John Bluem, Johnson helped lead Ohio State to a share of the 2004 Big Ten regular season title and the Round of 16 of the NCAA tournament – both firsts for the Buckeyes. In Salt Lake, Johnson will assist under head coach John Ellinger.
“It’s great to get back into MLS,” Johnson said. “The situation is unique because we get to build the team from scratch – that’s exciting. I feel very fortunate and very humbled that John Ellinger asked me to join his coaching staff in Salt Lake. I’ve learned a great deal from the coaches I have played for and coached with and I hope to give back.
Johnson will be missed by Bluem and the Buckeyes.
“In the two seasons Brian was with us, he had a very positive impact,” Bluem said. “He developed a great relationship with the players and he certainly has a lot to offer, being a former MLS player himself. He was able to make some very insightful suggestions and everybody benefited from having him on the staff. We’re delighted for the opportunity he has in front of him and we wish him the best of luck.”
A native of Livermore, Calif., Johnson played at Fresno State under Bluem and was a first-round draft pick of Kansas City in 1997 – the initial first-round draft pick from Fresno State in school history. Ellinger was an assistant coach for the United States U18, U20 and U23 national teams when Johnson was a player for those teams. “I liked Brian as a player and followed his career in the MLS for six years,” Ellinger said. “Besides his great playing ability he was obviously one of the good people in the league. We stayed in touch when he went to Ohio State and when this opportunity came up for me to go to Salt Lake, Brian was someone who immediately came to mind. He is a recent MLS player, he is very knowledgeable of the game and was doing well as an assistant at Ohio State, so he fit the bill. We waited until Ohio State’s great 2004 season was over and went through the process of hiring him.”
Ellinger, introduced Oct. 6 as the head coach of Real Salt Lake, is the former U.S. U17 national team head coach and is regarded as one of the top developers of young talent in the nation. In his seven years at the helm of the national team, he led the U.S. to a fourth place finish at the 1999 FIFA U17 World Championship and along the way compiled a 15-month, 25-match unbeaten streak, the longest in the history of any U.S. men’s national team program. Ellinger was an assistant coach for the Columbus Crew in 1996 for head coach Tom Fitzgerald.
Johnson said the Buckeyes’ run to the Sweet 16 in 2004 and the friendships he made with the players are what he’ll miss most about coaching at Ohio State.
“The thing I’ll remember most is the guys on the team,” Johnson said. “That’s a big reason why I wanted to become a college coach, to build relationships and get to know them. The 2004 season was a season all the players will never forget. The honor of making it to the postseason is an honor itself and to make it to the Sweet 16 – what a great run we had. The success we had in the second half of the season was unmatched by most teams in the country.”