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Mar 11, 2021

Extra Time: Callum Johnson

In the 13th minute of Clemson’s match against Syracuse on March 7, Callum Johnson slipped in behind the Orange’s defense and scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal from the top of the 18-yard box. Luis Felipe Fernandez-Salvador created the opportunity by playing a perfectly weighted pass across the field and into Johnson’s stride after springing a counter-attack opportunity in Clemson’s own defensive third. After receiving the pass with a positive touch, Johnson fired his shot around the Orange’s keeper while simultaneously being tackled to the ground. Rather than watching the ball hit the back of the net, Johnson knew he had scored by the crowd’s immediate roar.

“I’ve always wanted to score on Riggs Field, and I have a few times at practice and in scrimmages, but it’s always been a dream of mine to score [during a game] at Riggs,” reflected Johnson. “It was just as special as I had imagined, so I’m really grateful.”

After netting his first goal, Johnson was hungry for more and found success once again in the 51st minute. After a throw-in on the near side of the field saw the ball quickly exchanged between a trio of Tigers, Isaiah Reid took a precise first touch before delivering a high-sailing cross into the box, with the ball falling in-stride with an on-rushing Johnson. Johnson struck the ball with his right foot while it was a meter off the ground, sending his shot into the back of the net to score the final goal of the match.

The final goal came together just as the two players had drawn it up as they walked off the pitch after the opening 45 minutes of play.

“I told him [Reid] at halftime, ‘When I have the ball, you got to be far side and I’m going to put it in your path, and same thing for me,’ we know that was always going to be open,” added Johnson.

“On the second goal, when I saw the ball was floating around in the corner, I tried to draw the defender in by coming closer to the ball at first, kind of walking him to the ball. As soon as it [the ball] popped out of the space, I pulled off my defender and was feeling confident, so I knew I was going to get it on goal. It was a perfect pass right on my foot.”

The production from Johnson was something that the team needed after losing two of their most potent scoring threats early on in the year to professional opportunities. After having earned a pair of starts at forward during the fall, the natural midfielder knew he needed to capitalize on his chances in front of the net while a part of Clemson’s group of forwards.

“He’s a really good player,” added head coach Mike Noonan. “We talked with him after the fall [season] and told him that we need more production because if he’s going to take that next step, the production’s got to come with it. He obviously took it to heart with the two goals!”

Johnson’s performance served as his first collegiate brace and brought his career scoring tally to 11 goals. The four points in Sunday’s match eclipsed his previous single-match high for points, three, which he contributed on three occasions while playing with Boston College.

The prolific performance by Johnson was noticed by many around the nation. The native of New York, N.Y., was named Player of the Week by both United Soccer Coaches and College Soccer News, which made Johnson just the second Clemson player, along with Kimarni Smith, to receive the pair of honors in the same week this season. Johnson also earned Team of the Week honors from College Soccer News and

As Johnson and No. 1 Clemson now set their sights on a Saturday match-up with No. 21 Virginia Tech, it’ll take a complete team effort from the Tigers to earn a victory on the road. Johnson put it best when he said following the match against Syracuse that, “It was a fantastic game, but I’m more interested in a fantastic season, individually and as a team.”