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Eight months after horrific leg injury, Johnson hopes to make BMO Field comeback

05/22/2015 04:26 EDT | Updated 05/22/2016 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Eight months after suffering a horrific leg injury at BMO Field, Canadian international Will Johnson is healthy and looking to make his first-team comeback Saturday as the Portland Timbers visit Toronto FC.

The hard-nosed midfielder has no qualms about setting foot on the pitch where he lasted just one minute last time out, stretchered off after an ugly shin-on-shin collision with Toronto fullback Mark Bloom on a 50-50 ball.

For the 28-year-old Timbers captain, returning to action in Toronto would be akin to going full circle and signalling that his return from several surgeries and painful rehab is complete.

"For me that would be awesome. I think it would be a great story," Johnson said Friday from the Timbers' hotel. "I really enjoy playing at BMO, I played a lot of games on that field, had some great nights there. It would just be another experience that I feel that I would enjoy.

"If it happens great, if it doesn't then I'll look for it Wednesday (at home to D.C. United)."

Johnson has appeared in three games for the Timbers II team in his comeback so far.

The Timbers (3-4-4) have been hot and cold so far this season but things are looking up with Argentine playmaker Diego Valeri back in action after a knee injury.

"I think they're a dangerous team," said Toronto coach Greg Vanney. "You look at their roster and the guys they're adding back in — Valeri, the possibility of Will coming back, obviously (Darlington) Nagbe — they have some real talent out on the field. And they have some size out on the field especially up front with (Fanendo) Adi, and some aggressive outside backs who can get high and get service in."

Toronto (3-5-1) has lost star striker Jozy Altidore to a hamstring injury. England's Luke Moore is expected to take his place up front, with Italian dynamo Sebastian Giovinco also leading the attack. Chris Konopka continues in goal with Joe Bendik still recovering from a foot injury.

Johnson, who describes himself as a "type-A kind of want-to-go-go-go guy," admits to some dark days in his rehab from a broken tibia and fibula. He had a rod and screws inserted in his right leg and spent 12 weeks on a couch waiting for the bones to fuse together.

"It was a brutal process, and still an ongoing process," he said.

"The damage will be with me for a long, long time but at least I'm back to the point where I can play at a high level and compete again which is what I love to do. So I'm thankful I am back, because to be honest with this kind of injury, a lot of players don't ever make it back."

Family helped. Johnson and his wife have two young kids.

But there was also frustration, when his two-year-old daughter repeatedly asked him to come play and he couldn't. And Johnson was afraid to hold his baby son on just one good leg.

Despite the painful memories, Johnson has nothing but good things to say about Toronto and the support he got in the aftermath of his injury.

Toronto captain Michael Bradley, a close friend who played youth soccer with Johnson in the Chicago area growing up, and his family visited him every day in hospital in Toronto.

"A lot of the Toronto staff, not just Michael, but trainers, doctors, the hotel staff, everybody — it was a different level," Johnson said. "I'm very appreciative and have fond memories of a really bad time in my life and my career that was made brighter by a lot of the Toronto FC players and staff."

Johnson hopes he can earn an invitation to Benito Floro's Canadian camp in advance of the Gold Cup. He has yet to play under Floro, through injury, family and other commitments.

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