In a World Cup year, with Becky Sauerbrunn, Rachel Corsie, and Katie Bowen away, Samantha Johnson’s opportunity to lead the back line would come, and it was expected that she would lead the backline in Sauebrunn’s absence. What was unknown, however, was that Johnson planned to retire ahead of the 2019 season.
A conversation with head coach Laura Harvey led her to stay for a crucial time during the World Cup because Utah was unable to find a replacement, and she played her last game with Utah Royals FC on June 28. A fan favorite and reliable defender, Johnson’s news of retirement surprised many. Per Johnson’s request, the club did not send a news release or plan a pre-game/post-game ceremony. News about her retirement made news because of her teammates’ posts on social media, and it was Harvey who confirmed her retirement in a post-game press conference after the 2-0 loss to Seattle.
Traded to Utah in 2018 along with Christen Press from the Chicago Red Stars, Johnson quickly adapted to Utah, making six appearances for 433 minutes in 2018, impressing fans with her physical style of play. Johnson then went to play in the W-League in Australia last winter, but after six seasons in the NWSL, Johnson was ready to move on from soccer.
In her final season, Johnson started seven of her eight appearances, completing 83.3% of her tackles. She recorded 27 clearances, 11 blocks, and 12 interceptions. Though she did not start or make an appearance for the first game in 2019, Johnson would become a key player in the back line from May until the end of June.
In an interview with Ryan McDonald from Deseret News, Johnson cited that she was not willing to compromise her happiness any longer playing soccer:
“You kind of just go through your ups and downs and deal with it, but if it gets to the point as it did for me where I genuinely have other opportunities that I want to do, I don’t want to play soccer anymore, I no longer need the game as far as playing to open up doors and fulfill my happiness, that’s when you know it’s time to walk away.”
Johnson relocated to Chicago in pursuit of other opportunities after her retirement.