Signed to a one-day contract Saturday, Jordan Johansen enjoyed just a brief stint with United. The 12-year-old striker has returned to his home in Arizona and will continue to support the club from afar. But his impact on the team will undoubtedly carry on.
"It's nice during a season to get a reality check every now and then, and Jordan has given us that," United coach Ben Olsen said. "We're lucky to be a part of this."
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Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, Johansen has no pancreas functionality, and a struggling liver and lungs that operate at 75 percent of their capacity. Yet that hasn't kept him from running a mile in 6 minutes, 9 seconds. Or hitting nearly 13 feet on the long jump.
Take a glance at Johansen and before noticing his freckled face or spiked blond bangs, you'll spot a perpetual smile. It was 4 a.m. Saturday when Johansen's mother, Schura, woke up to see that grin, accompanied by a question.
"Is it morning yet?"
Some five hours later, Johansen, his parents and his 7-year-old brother, Nathan, popped out of a limousine at RFK Stadium to kick off festivities made possible by Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic.
Following a stroll on the field with D.C. United play-by-play man Dave Johnson, Johansen ventured into the media room to make the acquisition official. By the time Olsen and general manager Dave Kasper arrived, the contract was already inked. Johansen just couldn't wait.
"Where's our new player?" Olsen asked. "Did we get enough money in your contact?"
Once he had finished fielding questions from the press with sincere concision, Johansen strode into the home locker room and found his stall — sandwiched between those of right back Sean Franklin, his favorite player, and United captain Bobby Boswell.
After watching Franklin play for the LA Galaxy at a preseason tournament in Arizona, Johansen became an immediate fan. When a family friend got in touch with Franklin and passed along an autographed jersey and ball, Johansen's admiration grew. As Franklin moved from the Galaxy to United this past offseason, so did Johansen's allegiance.
"Jordan just fell in love with Sean," his mother said. "He's going to follow him wherever he goes."
Jordan Johansen is introduced alongside Dave Kasper and Ben Olsen. (Photo by Pablo Maurer)
Having pulled on his personalized No. 6 United shirt, Johansen took to the practice field with his brother. There they went through fitness exercises and short passing drills. Franklin gave Johansen some set-piece tips as well, and the two combined for a lengthy juggling display.
"It's a very humbling experience," Franklin said. "I'm glad I'm in a job where I can do that and provide a day to hang out with a great kid."
The next day, Franklin marched onto the field for United's match against Chivas USA with Johansen in hand. As Johansen's name was introduced in the starting lineup, the United supporters' groups held up banners welcoming him to the club and serenaded their new forward with chants of "Let's go Jordan."
After receiving an encouraging nudge on the shoulder from Olsen and shaking hands with Chivas captain Carlos Bocanegra, Johansen delivered a clean pass to Boswell for the game's ceremonial first kick.
United took over from there, rolling to a 3-1 win as Johansen and his family watched from field-side seats. Walking the pitch with Franklin postgame, Johansen raised his hands above his head and applauded the United fans.
As the supporters returned the favor, Franklin pulled his jersey off his back and handed it to his biggest admirer. It was a final memento from two days Johansen — and United — won't soon forget.
When asked the previous day to share his emotions on the experience, Johansen gave a succinct but telling response.
"I feel proud of myself," he said. "I made it this far."