Johnson among 20 finalists for National Soccer Hall of Fame
Anchorage’s Keith Johnson has joined some of the biggest names in soccer after being selected one of 20 finalists for the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
The two-time Paralympian from Alaska is listed alongside legendary names David Beckham, Hope Solo and Thierry Henry.
“Being nominated is a wonderful honor,” Johnson said. “I’m lucky to be on the list.”
The Class of 2021 ceremony is set for Saturday in Frisco, Texas.
Johnson was a fixture on the U.S. Paralympic National Team at goalkeeper for more than a dozen years between 2003 and 2016.
He twice was part of Paralympic teams at the 2004 Games in Athens and 2012 Games in London, where he won the Golden Glove Award.
He won a bronze medal at the 2012 Paralympic World Cup and has been selected ‘Man of the Match’ eight times during his career.
“I couldn’t have done it without a strong support system,” Johnson said. “The athletic trainers with U.S. Soccer always kept me in the game.”
Diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was young, Johnson didn’t let that stop him from enjoying the game he loves. He credited Alaska coaches Jimmy Velasco and Harry Matrone for helping him develop as a young player.
Johnson, of East High fame, played on the varsity team for Matrone as a senior in 1999 and helped the T-birds reach the ASAA state tournament championship game for only the second time in school history.
“My high school coach had a big part in helping me on the national team by giving me a solid goalkeeping foundation that I learned during goalkeeper sessions after school,” Johnson said.
In 2000, he discovered the U.S. National Paralympic Team and wrote the Olympic Committee an email asking how he could get involved.
By 2003, he was part of the American squad that competed at the World Cup. The next year he was the starting goalkeeper for Team USA at the 2004 Summer Paralympics.
At the 2012 World Cup, he was in goal for his team’s 2-1 win over Ireland in the bronze-medal match.
In 2015, he anchored a 3-0 win over Venezuela at the Cerebral Palsy Football World Championships.
“When I’m in goal I love to work hard and sacrifice my body to make a save,” Johnson said. “I love giving my all on the field and just making sure I never quit.”
Johnson said he dedicates every match he plays to the American Armed Forces.
“That’s what drives me,” he said. “I make saves in goal to make our military personnel proud of our national sports teams.”