His nickname isn’t “JFR” for no reason, it’s earned. The Sporting Kansas City captain is passionate and fiery. He knows his teammates, coaches, and the fans, all expect this from him.
We sat down with Johnny Russell this week to talk about that passion, a frustrating season, and of course... cars.
The 32-year-old Scotsman had just got off the treatment table after getting some work done for an “ongoing hamstring problem.” But that kind of work is common and he says it’s nothing that’s holding him back right now. I too, would make sure to get the most I could out of the incredible facilities at Compass Minerals National Performance Center (Pinnacle). We asked Johnny if he feels like Sporting KC is headed in the right direction after showing signs of life in the 2-2 draw with FC Dallas.
“We haven’t reached the standards we set last year,” he says. “We know that ourselves.”
Russell is well aware he just hit #5 on Sporting KC’s all-time scoring leader charts. He even says he’s set “targets” for himself, the first of which was his friend Mo Johnston. Johnny plans to keep climbing the ranks in KC with an eye on Preki at the top. With Alan Pulido out, he’s taken over penalty kick duties. He gives us some cool insight into reading keepers and his PK tactics.
A few weeks ago after a match, Russell went into the stands and confronted a fan. But after scoring last week, he celebrated in that very spot and once again made peace after the match. “JFR” says he heard some things he didn’t like that were directed at his teammates. Things that went beyond criticism, which he says they deserved that night.
“I didn’t like it. I lost my cool in that moment.”
We also reminisce about other times he fiercely defended his teammates. Remember the Vancouver Whitecaps getting double red cards?
Without Gadi Kinda and a #10, Peter Vermes says the front line has slowly been learning to adapt to a different look in the midfield. Johnny tells how he and Daniel Salloi are working to find space in the final third and create chances.
Finally, we get to one of Johnny Russell’s favorite things about the US - American muscle cars. He tells us which teammates drive cool cars (one of them just got rear-ended).
What’s his dream car? Just call him ‘Russell... Johnny Russell’.