An Idaho youth girls’ soccer team made history this past weekend at the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships in Overland Park, Kansas, and a Twin Falls athlete was in the middle of the action.
The Boise Thorns U-15 girls soccer team won the Idaho Youth Soccer Association State Cup and qualified for the national tournament through its play in the Far West Regional Championships within the last couple of months. Then the team won its group at the national tournament, which was a first for any team in Idaho, both boys and girls.
The Thorns made it to the tournament’s semifinals before losing in penalty kicks to Pennsylvania’s FC Revolution, which ended the team’s run. But for Jaden Johnston, one of the team’s midfielders and an incoming freshman at Canyon Ridge High School, the whole experience was worthwhile.
“It was tons of fun and it was an amazing experience,” Johnston said. “We got to play against teams from all over the country and prove ourselves. We got to put Idaho on the map.”
Johnston scored a goal in her team’s second game of the tournament, against the Georgia Rush. She knocked in a shot off of a corner kick within the game’s first five minutes.
It was her first goal as a member of the Thorns, and she said she was proud it came on such a big stage.
Jason Vittrup, the coach of the Boise Thorns, said Johnston has brought a lot to the table for the team, including a blend of competitiveness, size, athleticism and strength. He also recognizes the sacrifice she makes to commute to Boise from Twin Falls for the club’s games and practices.
“I’m so happy for Jaden, because no one makes the commitment she and her family make,” Vittrup said. “They drive a long way, and it takes a lot of time and energy and money.”
Vittrup said that overall, the experience has showed how soccer is growing in America, both because of how many players are interested in playing for the Boise Thorns’ program and because of the top-notch facilities and popularity involved in the national tournament.
“To take the kids there and to have an experience like that is really gratifying,” he said.