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Tommy Johnson has been a program-changing player for Manasquan during his first three seasons of high-school soccer, leading the Warriors to a Shore Conference Tournament final last season and a South Jersey Group II final a year earlier.

Unfortunately for the Warriors, they will have to adjust to life without Johnson a year earlier than expected.

Johnson informed head coach Tom McGill of his decision to pass on high-school soccer this season, instead spending the fall with the Monmouth Cedar Stars Academy.

Manasquan junior Tommy Johnson. (Photo by Matt Manley)
Manasquan's Tommy Johnson. (Photo by Matt Manley)

With the dissolution of the United States Soccer Developmental Academy, there was a possibility that players would have more flexibility to play with both academies and on high-school teams, but as it currently stands, that will not be the case.

Major League Soccer has replaced U.S. Soccer in directing the academy network and according to Matawan head coach Tyler Isaacson - who is also on the Cedar Stars coaching staff as its Roots Program Director - the MLS informed the academies that its players should not be playing high-school soccer as well.

Isaacson also said there is no such requirement for its girls program, which does not begin play until November.

Johnson is committed to playing at Villanova next fall and even without his senior season, he left his mark on the Manasquan program. After starting as a freshman and scoring 14 goals, Johnson sparked his team to the brink of two championships in each of the past two seasons while also earning all-division and All-Shore honors along the way.

Manasquan lost to Delran in the 2018 South Jersey Group II championship game and fell to Freehold Township on penalties in the 2019 Shore Conference Tournament final - the first SCT final to ever be decided on a round of penalty kicks.

Last season, Johnson scored 15 goals to go with six assists and was a second team Shore Sports Network All-Shore selection. Johnson steps away just four goals shy of becoming the program's all-time leading goal-scorer, wrapping up his career with 37 goals and 14 assist over three seasons.

The Warriors already had to replace three All-Shore performers in striker and leading scorer Drew Greenblatt, goalkeeper Joe Weinstein and outside back Tyler Guagenty, as well as defensive starters Chris Pierro and Brady Barry and midfielder Frank Manno.

High school sports are currently in the middle of a two-week shutdown, with summer workouts ending on Aug. 28 and the official first practices of the season beginning on Sept. 14. High school coaches are unable to have in-person contact with their players and there remains the possibility more players in the area could be compelled to opt out of high-school soccer between now and the official start of fall practices.

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