Alistair Johnston already feels at home at CF Montreal.
The newly won Canadian national defender has friends on the MLS team, appreciates his “very nice” style of play and was rewarded with a new deal in the trade, which took him north of the border this week.
And with Montreal ready to spend $ 1 million in general allotment money to get him off Nashville SC – on top of that four-year-upgraded contract – the 23-year-old from Aurora, Ontario knows he’s on a team that wants him.
“It was definitely something that I looked at and said, ‘Wow, this is a team that really appreciate me.’ And I think as a player you want to feel valued for that, ”said Johnston on Thursday.
“It’s just as much about it as anything else. You want to be somewhere where you feel wanted. And I always felt wanted in Nashville. It just felt like Montreal was ready to move mountains – and postpone anything to get me. And that was something that really impressed me and got me excited about this possible move. “
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Johnston, who earned just $ 73,079 in his second MLS season in 2021, garnered many points on his first media availability since trading with local reporters that complimented him on his level of French.
Engaging and well spoken in every language, Johnston credits Johnston for the time he spent in French as a child.
Johnston was born in Vancouver and was four when the family moved to Montreal and seven when they settled in Aurora. He noted that he started playing organized soccer with Lakeshore SC in Montreal and said his return made a “full circle”.
While complaining about his French vocabulary, Johnston said he always wants to improve it when he’s at camp with Canada, and asks teammates like Sam Piette, Maxime Crepeau, and James Pantemis to speak only French to him.
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Johnston made himself popular with the locals by noting that the Toronto FC Academy, while he was in the Toronto area for most of his youth, considered him “too small”.
“To be honest, I was never the biggest Toronto fan growing up, I won’t have any problems playing them,” he said cheerfully. “I love the rivalry. I think it’s great for sport. “
Johnston said that instead of being on the trading bloc, Montreal was “very compelling” with “several big deals”.
“It got to a point where Nashville couldn’t resist,” he said.
Johnston grew up with his Montreal attorney, Kamal Miller, during high school and college breaks. He also counts Piette among his close friends.
“I’m excited to get in there. I’m excited to play a bigger role, ”said Johnston.
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The move to Montreal comes after a turbulent year with Johnston making his senior team debut in March, playing in 18 of Canada’s 19 games.
Able to play as full-back, full-back, or on the right side of a back three, Johnston joins a Montreal defense who finished 10th in the league last season, averaging 1.29 goals per game.
The backline has changed as the club decided not to exercise the contract options for Kiki Struna and Mustafa Kizza while veteran Rudy Camacho left the contract at the end of the year.
Johnston joins fellow Canadians Miller, Zachary Brault-Guillard, Zorhan Bassong and Joel Waterman in a Montreal defense that also includes Italian youth international defender Gabriele Corbo, who was loaned out from Bologna in early December for the 2022 MLS season .
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A product of Wake Forest where he was converted from midfielder to full-back, Johnston of Nashville was defeated in the first round (11th overall) in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft.
He played 44 games for Nashville and recorded 39 starts and 3,510 minutes of play on one of the league’s stingiest backlines. He also saw action in five playoff games.
He was 16 years old when he made his debut in the Canadian youth program at an U18 camp in 2015.
© 2021 The Canadian Press