HERRIMAN, Utah (Monday, February 4, 2019) – Real Salt Lake has signed Liberian FW Sam Johnson as a Designated Player after a transfer from Valerenga in Norway’s first division. He will join RSL in training camp and occupy an international roster slot pending receipt of his ITC and P1 visa.
“I’m ready for a new challenge in MLS. A lot of clubs came for me, but Real Salt Lake put more effort than the other clubs. I spoke with my advisor, I spoke with mom and some people who follow MLS closely and it was an easy decision for me,” Johnson said. “I feel like I can showcase myself in one of the biggest leagues in the world. I’m excited to be here and I look forward to playing for the fans in Salt Lake City.”
Johnson, 25, scored 11 goals in 21 matches last season for Valerenga to lead the team in scoring and rank sixth in the league during the Eliteserien season. In addition, he scored two goals for the Liberian National Team, bringing his career total to two goals in 11 appearances since making his full international debut in 2015.
“I am happy to welcome Sam to the RSL family. It will be good to get him integrated with the players and staff and up to speed on how we play,” Head Coach Mike Petke said. “The addition of Sam will provide us with a strong option up front and will certainly create further competition on an already deep roster.”
He started his playing career in his native Liberia before making a move to Assyriska IF in Sweden at 18 years old in 2011. He climbed the European ranks until landing with Sweden’s IK Frej in 2013, where he scored 17 goals in 50 matches over two seasons, leading the team with 12 goals to rank sixth in the Norra division, helping the second division club earn promotion in 2014. The following season, he moved to Djurgardens in Sweden’s top division, finishing second on the team with 10 goals in his first season. Even after a mid-season transfer to Wuhan Zall in China, he was still second on the team with six goals in 2016. In two seasons in China, he scored 11 goals in 26 matches before returning to Europe with Valerenga last year.
In total, he has 66 goals in 162 league matches since 2011 and 69 goals in 180 appearances across all competitions.
“We are excited to add a player of Sam’s quality to our attack. He adds a new dynamic to our front line and he is a great fit for our locker room and his work rate is a great representation of our club and its fans,” RSL General Manager Craig Waibel said. “He is the type of player that fits the vision that we have of defining our roster with a core of young players that can help challenge for great things in our league.”
He joins a Real Salt Lake side that finished 10th in MLS in scoring with 55 goals in 2018, adding scoring punch to an attack that saw six players score five goals or more. RSL finished sixth in the Western Conference at 14-13-7 (49 points), advancing to the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2018 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs with a dramatic 3-2 road win over LAFC.
Real Salt Lake opens the 2019 MLS regular season on March 2 on the road against the Houston Dynamo before returning for the home opener on March 9 against Vancouver Whitecaps FC. 2019 Real Salt Lake season tickets are available now at RSL.com/Tickets or by calling 844-REAL-TIX (844-732-5849).
Transaction: Real Salt Lake signs forward Sam Johnson to a Designated Player contract on a transfer from Valerenga (Norway).
Name: Sam Johnson
Weight: 163 lbs
Born: 05/06/1993 (25 yo)
Birthplace: Ganta, Liberia
Hometown: Monrovia, Liberia
Last Club: Valerenga