By JOEY SAMUEL
CHESTER, Pa. — At the start of 2012, many people had written Eddie Johnson off. After all, he had languished for several years in Europe, moving from club to club.
But after returning to MLS with the Seattle Sounders, Johnson has found his form once again, and he proved that Wednesday night when he delivered a stoppage time winner as the MLS All-Stars defeated European champions Chelsea, 3-2, at PPL Park.
For Johnson, it was a moment he'll never forget, having struggled mightily in Europe over the last four years. Most of that time was spent at Fulham, where he failed to score in 19 league appearances. Johnson also spent time on loan at Cardiff City, Aris FC, and Preston North End.
But after failing to settle at any of those clubs, he returned to his home country, and he has finally found success. That's why he was picked to play in the All-Star Game by Ben Olsen, and in the end Johnson repaid him for the selection with the late goal.
"He was chomping at the bit," said Olsen. "He wanted to get in there and we saw holes because they were getting a bit leggy. It's nice to see, I've always known Eddie. He's a good guy who has had ups and downs. I hope he continues to succeed and he's had a great year."
After replacing Chris Wondolowski in the 60th minute, Johnson began using his speed to try and get in behind the Chelsea defense. He was on the field when Chris Pontius scored an equalizer in the 73rd minute, and it was Johnson's ability to stretch the field that allowed David Beckham to find an open Dwayne De Rosario, who eventually dished it to Pontius for the goal.
When the game entered stoppage time at 2-2 and appeared to be headed to penalty kicks, Johnson unleashed a shot that deflected off Chelsea defender David Luiz, and it got past Ross Turnbull to seal a dramatic win for the All-Stars.
But while Johnson may once again be showing the form that once made him one of the league's top young players, he doesn't think about proving anything to other people. His goal on Wednesday night was more about showing why he deserved a place on the team.
"That's what coach brought me here for," Johnson said. "I'm just trying to pay him back for selecting me to the team. I'm not really trying to prove anything to doubters. I wanted to prove it to myself. This year I want to challenge myself and try to be as consistent as I can. That’s the one thing I look back at my career and I haven't been able to really be consistent."
Johnson's dramatic winner can only serve to boost his confidence as he continues a 2012 campaign that has seen him score eight goals in 17 games for Seattle. He'll look to keep it up on Saturday, when the Sounders hit the road to face the Colorado Rapids.