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Real Salt Lake sign Sam Johnson to Designated Player contract

Real Salt Lake have found a new Designated Player, signing Liberian forward Sam Johnson, the club announced on Monday. The 25-year-old will occupy an international roster slot pending receipt of his ITC and P1 visa.

“I’m ready for a new challenge in MLS,” Johnson said in a statement. “A lot of clubs came for me, but Real Salt Lake put more effort than the other clubs. I spoke with my advisor, I spoke with mom and some people who follow MLS closely and it was an easy decision for me. I feel like I can showcase myself in one of the biggest leagues in the world. I’m excited to be here and I look forward to playing for the fans in Salt Lake City.”

Johnson arrives following a transfer from Valerenga in Norway’s first division, where he had 11 goals in 21 matches last season, good for sixth overall in the Eliteserien. He has also scored twice for the Liberian national team since making his senior team debut in 2015.

“I am happy to welcome Sam to the RSL family,” RSL coach Mike Petke said. “It will be good to get him integrated with the players and staff and up to speed on how we play. The addition of Sam will provide us with a strong option up front and will certainly create further competition on an already deep roster.”

After beginning his professional career in his native Liberia, Johnson played in the lower tiers in Sweden with Assyriska IF KF, Juventus IF, Härnösand FF and IK Frej.

Having moved from the midfield to forward, Johnson signed a four-year deal with Djurgården in Sweden’s top flight in Dec. 2014.

After scoring 17 goals in 41 appearances, Johnson headed to China to compete for Wuhan Zall, scoring six times, helping the club stave off relegation and finish sixth in the China League One. In two seasons in China, he scored 11 goals in 26 matches before returning to Europe with Valerenga last year.

“We are excited to add a player of Sam’s quality to our attack,” RSL general manager Craig Waibel said. “He adds a new dynamic to our front line and he is a great fit for our locker room and his work rate is a great representation of our club and its fans. He is the type of player that fits the vision that we have of defining our roster with a core of young players that can help challenge for great things in our league.”

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