CHARLOTTE, NC (Aug. 31, 2016) — The Charlotte Independence today announced that defender Joel Johnson has been called up to the Liberian National Team ahead of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Tunisia on Sept. 4. He is the first Independence player to be called up for the upcoming qualifying window.
Liberia and Tunisia are tied atop their qualifying group with 10 points (3-1-1) each. In the last meeting between these nations on September 5, 2015, Liberia came away with a 1-0 victory over Tunisia.
Johnson, 23, has made 21 appearances for the Independence this season, recording 1,737 minutes of USL action. Johnson has tallied three shots on goal and three yellow cards. He has twice been recognized by the league as a member of the USL Team of the Week.
“We are very happy for Joel to receive the honor of joining the Liberian National team and wish him well for their game against Tunisia,” said Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries. “The call up is a reflection of his efforts and work this year – from arriving as a trialist and not knowing anyone or speaking English, he has developed into an integral part of our team through his daily efforts and maintenance of a strong mentality.”
Born in Torrent, Valencia, to a Liberian father and Spanish mother, Johnson was a product of Valencia CF’s youth system. He made his senior debut at just 17 years old, appearing with the B-team in the third division. Johnson made 69 appearances with Valencia B from 2009-2012, recording 3,440 minutes of action.
On March 8, 2010, with both first-team right backs unavailable, Johnson made his first La Liga appearance, playing the full 90 minutes in a 0-0 home draw against Racing de Santander. He then moved to Real Madrid C, where he made 50 appearances from 2012-1014, recording 4,173 minutes. Johnson spend the 2015 season with Real Jaén of the Spanish Segunda Division B, making 16 appearances for 1,267 minutes.
Due to his newfound national team commitments, Johnson will be unavailable for the Independence’s home match against FC Cincinnati on Wednesday, Aug. 31, and road contest at Toronto FC II on Sunday, Sept. 4. The Independence (11-7-6, 39 points) currently ranks seventh in the Eastern Conference and is on the brink of clinching a playoff berth.