Entering his 17th season at the helm of the Fighting Leatherneck men's soccer program, Dr. Eric Johnson has led six teams to Summit League Tournament Championship and has seen his team receive a berth in the NCAA College Cup in six of the past nine seasons. Johnson has also been crowned the league's 'Coach of the Year' award four times.
In his 16 years as head coach, Johnson has coached 28 First Team All-Summit League selections, 33 Second Team All-Summit League honorees, and three All-Newcomer selections, along with two Players of the Year, two Newcomers of the Year and two Defensive Players of the Year in the Summit League.
In 2012, Johnson helped the Leathernecks rebound from a slow start, finishing the last five games 4-0-1 in the regular season and conference tournament to win their second straight Summit League crown with a 7-9-5 overall mark. He guided Charlie Bales and Nathan Bruinsma to All-Summit League and All-Region selections, while Aaron Appel was also named All-Conference. Bruinsma was also named Summit League Tournament MVP, as Western went on to the NCAA Tournament, falling by a single goal to Northwestern.
Coach Johnson and the 2011 Leathernecks earned both The Summit League Regular Season Championship crown and entered as the top-seed in the conference tournament after finishing league play with a 4-2 record. The Leathernecks then earned back-to-back victories in The Summit League Tournament versus Oakland and Oral Roberts, capturing the league tournament crown and an NCAA tournament berth for the fifth time in program history. The team finished 14-8-1 overall, and earned 10 wins in their final 13 games. Dr. Johnson earned his fourth 'Coach of the Year' award, while the Leathernecks boasted seven all-league honors. Sophomore Charlie Bales became the second Leatherneck ever to be named Summit League 'Defensive Player of the Year', and fifth Leatherneck to ever be named Summit League 'Player of the Year', offensive or defensive. Along with Bales, senior goalkeeper Andy Ryan and senior midfielder Alexis Dominguez were named All-Summit League First Team, while senior midfielder Mariano Leo, junior forward Nathan Bruinsma, and junior midfielder Husref Jupic earned second team honors.
During the 2010 campaign, Johnson's team stayed in contention for a Summit League Tournament berth until the last day of the regular-season. The Leathernecks upset league-leader UMKC on the final day of the season, but were left out of the league tournament after battling through significant injuries to post a 4-8-6 record including a 2-2-2 mark in league play.
Johnson coached four players to All-Summit honors in 2010 including Second Team All-League selections in Kooten Johnson, Mariano Leo and Andy Ryan. Leo also earned a spot on the All-Newcomer team along with teammate Charlie Bales. In addition to the accomplishments of those players, Johnson also saw one of his former players succeed at the professional level as Kosuke Kimura helped lead the Colorado Rapids to their first-ever MLS title.
In addition to Kimura's success in the professional ranks, Johnson also saw another player sign a professional contract following the 2010 season when Oskar Gasecki inked a three-year deal with Borussia Dortmund of the German league Bundesliga. Gasecki became the third Leatherneck to sign a professional contract during Johnson's tenure.
In 2009, Johnson led the Leathernecks to their fourth Summit League Tournament title since 2004 and an automatic berth in the NCAA College Cup. The team finished the season with an 8-10-2 overall record and a 3-2-1 record in The Summit League, good for a second place regular-season finish. The 2009 season also saw two more of Johnson's players etch their name into the record books. Stephen Paterson broke the school record for career shutouts (23) and Martin Browne, Jr. moved into ninth place on the school's career scoring list with 64 career points.
In 2008, Johnson’s squad posted a 12-5-3 overall record and a 3-2-1 Summit League record, finishing the season second in the conference standings. The Leatherneck defense continued its tradition of excellence as they had one of the best defenses in the country, ranking nationally with a team goals against average of .660 (15th), a win-loss percentage of .675 (27th) and a shutout percentage of .400 (48th).
In addition to the defense ranking nationally, goalkeeper Stephen Paterson broke the school record for best goals against average in a season by posting a 0.76 GAA.
The 2008 team finished the season with a number of player accolades that included two NSCAA/Adidas All-Midwest Region Team selections and five all-conference honorees.
At the conclusion of the 2008 season, Johnson had the second player in his tenure sign a professional contract in defender Nikola Katic as he signed a contract with the United Soccer League’s Pittsburgh Riverhounds, joining former Leatherneck player Kosuke Kimura of the Colorado Rapids as former Western Illinois players who have played professional.
The 2007 season saw Johnson’s squad bring home two tournament titles. The first came on the opening weekend of the season at the Broyhill Inn and Conference Center Appalachian Classic. Western defeated Appalachian State 2-1 and Georgia Southern 1-0. That title was matched the following weekend in the Comfort Inn/Diadora tournament at Missouri State. The Leathernecks grabbed a 1-0 victory over Drake before playing host-Missouri State to a 1-1 tie.
Nine of 20 games in the 2007 campaign for Johnson were decided by one goal, while another three ended in ties.
Twice he nearly had his squad upset ranked opponents, earning a 1-1 tie at No. 10 Creighton while falling 2-1 at No. 12 Northwestern.
In 2006, he earned his third Mid-Continent Conference Coach of the Year award after leading his team to its first regular season title since 2000, and first outright conference championship since 1995. Johnson has guided the Leathernecks to thee consecutive NCAA Tournament berths and Mid-Con Tournament Championships.
That year, Western Illinois won the Mid-Con Tournament as the No. 1 seed. The Leathernecks defeated IUPUI 1-0 in the semifinals and were victorious over UMKC by a score of 2-0 in the Championship match. That win tied the record for wins (15) in a season at Western set by the 1995 squad under the guidance of legendary coach John MacKenzie. Western also became the first team in league history to record three titles and three straight titles.
Western Illinois finished as the seventh ranked scoring offense in the country with 2.48 goals per game.
Johnson led six players to First Team All-Mid-Con honors with two more players bringing home Second Team All-Mid-Con hardware, as well as two All-Newcomer team members.
Western swept the individual Mid-Con awards in 2006 as Martin Browne was named Newcomer of the Year, Matt Wieclaw was given the Offensive Player of the year honor, and Stephen Paterson was awarded Defensive Player of the Year, all to go along with Johnson’s Coach of the Year award.
In 2005, Western Illinois won the Mid-Con Tournament as the No. 3 seed for the second straight year, defeating No. 2 Oral Roberts 1-1 (4-3 PKs) and No. 1 Oakland 4-3 in overtime.
The Leathernecks finished the season with a record of 6-10-4 and had a conference mark of 3-1-2.
In 2004, Western Illinois finished third in the Mid-Con regular season standings with a 3-3-0 conference mark and 11-10-0 overall record.
The Leathernecks collected two shutouts en-route to winning the 2004 Mid-Con Tournament, defeating No. 2 seed Oakland, 1-0 in the semifinals and No. 1 seeded Oral Roberts, 4-0 in the finals.
Johnson's teams have historically been strong at home, posting a 16-match home unbeaten streak, which stretched over a two-year span from Oct. 2002-Oct. 2004.
His 2004 and 2005 squads each placed four players on the Mid-Con all-conference teams. In 2004, Luke Greenwell, Nowaf Jaman and Kosuke Kimura were on the first team, while Matt Wieclaw was named to the second team. In 2004, Andy Swentik and Jaman were named to the first team, while Lorenzo Zignago and Elton Fernandes were named to the second team. Jaman became Johnson’s first Mid-Con Tournament MVP product in 2004, while Nick Bohnenkamp became the second player to receive the honor under Johnson’s leadership in 2005.
In 2003, Johnson led a soccer program that tied two school records: it allowed only five goals at home and posted four consecutive home shutouts. The previous marks were set in 1986.
In 2000, Johnson coached both the Mid-Con Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year in Troy Markin and Justin Langan, respectively. Under Johnson’s tutelage, Langan was a first-team Mid-Con All-Conference selection from 2000-03 and is currently ranked third in school history in points (87) and fifth in goals (33). Johnson has had 29 student-athletes named to the Mid-Con All-Conference teams. Langan was also honored as a CoSIDA Academic All-American in 2003; the first player to be recognized for this distinctive honor under Johnson. Langan was also awarded the Mid-Con Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award during the 2003-04 academic year.
Prior to coming to Western Illinois in 1997, Johnson spent five years coaching both men’s and women’s soccer, along with men’s tennis at Loras College. While at Loras, he was named the 1996 Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.
Before joining the staff at Loras, Johnson worked at the high school level in Florida at the Fort Lauderdale Christian School, where he was the athletic director and the coach of the boys’ soccer and basketball teams. His soccer team compiled a 19-0-3 record in 1989 and claimed the Class A Florida State Championship.
The Denver, Colo., native earned his bachelor of arts degree in physical education from Calvin College in 1980 where he was an All-Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association selection. He earned his master’s degree in physical education from Florida Atlantic University in 1985 and his doctorate in sports administration from the University of New Mexico in 1995.
Johnson is a USYSA Region II staff coach for the Olympic Development Program and is the assistant coach for the Boys’ ODP ‘92 Regional Team.