MLS Spotlight: Johnson repaying Seattle’s confidence in him with goals

Eddie Johnson (AP)

By FRANCO PANIZO

UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. — Eddie Johnson may seem like a confident player for the Seattle Sounders these days, but that's only because of the belief his new team has had in him.

After spending eight months without a club and rejoining MLS this past winter, Johnson has shaken off a rough start to the season by finding the scoring touch that made him one of the most lethal forwards in MLS prior to his departure for Europe four years ago.

The 28-year-old striker, who has scored five times in his last five league matches and has earned a place in the MLS All-Star Game, attributes most of his recent success to being able to settle in with the Sounders and the confidence that head coach Sigi Schmid and the rest of the club have given him.

"When you go into a new organization, it takes time," Johnson told SBI. "Some people adapt earlier than others, some people adapt later. But one thing that helps bring the confidence in your ability is the people around you.

"The coach has been positive with me, my teammates have been positive with me, I've been working hard. [Fitness coach] Dave Tenney, I worked with him in Kansas City. When you have a bit of downspell in your career, it's about getting back with the people that helped you get to the top."

Johnson's downspell was a big one. After transferring from the then-Kansas City Wizards to Fulham in January 2008, Johnson immediately struggled to consistently get playing time with the Cottagers. Some chalked it up to him needing to get accustomed to life abroad while others believed he just was not good enough.

The following years saw him bounce around different leagues and clubs while on loan from Fulham. He did enjoy some success with Greek outfit Aris Salonika in 2010, and that resulted in then-U.S. men's national team head coach Bob Bradley calling him into a 30-man preliminary roster prior to the World Cup.

Unfortunately for Johnson, he did not make that World Cup quad, nor did he ever find a stable situation in Europe. In fact, he almost called it quits altogether after his contract with Fulham expired after the 2010-2011 season because of a death to a close relative in the family.

Still, Johnson does not look back on his time in Europe negatively.

"I can't say as a player that I played much, but I did learn a lot and I got better as a soccer player," said Johnson. "I'm happy for the experience. I'm one of the few Americans that has had the opportunity to play in the Premiership and I wouldn't change anything with that whole experience.

"You live and you learn. It made me stronger as a player. I had a chance to play some of the best players in the world and learn from some of the best players in the world, and it's made me into the player I am today."

The player Johnson is showing he is today is an improved version of the one that was creating havoc for defenses around the league just over four years ago. Johnson still has that trademark blazing speed that so many know him for but he is also a more polished and well-rounded goal-scorer, with his team-high eight goals standing testament to that.

"He's certainly done what we think he could do," said Schmid. "It took him a while to get fit, get his touch and rhythm of play but I think he's gotten that behind him now, so it's good."

Johnson admits that not being with Seattle for much of the preseason left him with a lot of catching up to do, especially considering he had gone the last eight months without playing soccer at a competitive level (though he did train on his own in Florida during that time in an effort to maintiain some of his fitness).

The move to join the Sounders, however, came about after Johnson and Mexican club Puebla had a falling out. Johnson had verbally agreed to a deal to join Puebla last winter, but the club later went on to withdraw their offer.

That opened the door for the Sounders to make a deal with the Montreal Impact (who were atop the allocation order at the time) to grab Johnson, who is now solely focusing on continuing to repay the faith the club has shown in him.

"Sigi, [general manager Adrian Hanauer], [technical director] Chris Henderson, they've all had my back and I just want to pay them back for them believing in me," said Johnson. "National team call-ups, whatever other things come on the side is a bonus. I just want to be as consistent as I can as a player and when you're consistent, good things happen."

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35 Responses to MLS Spotlight: Johnson repaying Seattle’s confidence in him with goals

  1. Jeremy says:

    EJ has been playing great the last two months. From what I’ve seen, he has gotten better and better each game. He has a bit of an attitude problem unfortunately, but hopefully he can keep it in check and continue to produce.

  2. OneLegged says:

    EJ’s path makes for a great story. Good for him.

  3. Mike says:

    He has been playing well. True. But he also punched that player on the bench a few games back. So, I can’t help but feel little respect for him.

  4. Jeremy says:

    Not his first incident this season. He taunted the crap out of at least three other teams after Sounders wins. I like EJ’s skills and work ethic on the pitch, but he seems like he is a second away from doing something stupid at any given time.

  5. fish says:

    He’s been brilliant this season. He’s got amazing speed and technical ability, as well as a good work rate. Deserves a chance on the national team in my opinion

  6. bcoug says:

    To be clear, there was some amount of contact (how much is unclear) between EJ and a player that had come off the SJ bench and quite clearly pushed him seemingly in reaction to EJ crowing a bit about winning a hard-fought match.

    Let’s not make it sound like he ran over and cold-cocked someone sitting on the bench minding their own business.

  7. bcoug says:

    He’s got an attitude, I’m not sure how much of a problem it is.

  8. Erik says:

    Well, he fits right in with his club then.

  9. SilverRey says:

    He’s definitely playing with a chip on his shoulder. I think he’s been highly motivated this year (good for him) but he’s got to watch his anger on the field.

  10. zayss''fr/ewa says:

    He and Wondo are our best in form strikers at the month but dear GOD keep them away from the Nats. Let’s continue with 1 striker up top and keep Altidore, Gomez getting the call ups. Boyd and Agudelo are coming along fine. They might be ready for the WC. EJ should not be. Heck we even have Charlie Davies if he can score some in Denmark

  11. Tyler says:

    I was literally about to say that EJ and Wondo are probably the best strikers who should have no business suiting up for USMNT

  12. mikebsiu says:

    My buddy has a Cardiff city t shirt that says ” I saw Eddie Johnson score”

  13. Todd says:

    Are you people serious??? This guy is a bum. He is the worst decision maker of any stiker I have ever seen. On top of it, he is a moron, and extremely unintelligent. Did anyone watch him last night against Chelsea. Dude, had at least 4 or 5 clear scoring opportunities that of course he blew. He had the chance to prove himself, and learn quickly that athleticism alone does not make you a good soccer player. His goals this year are all luck. Do not call him up. He does not deserve it.

  14. Chris says:

    That must be a very rare shirt!! “>
    U

  15. TheeMurf says:

    Fully agree with that. I love his confidence and he has worked very hard for the Sounders, no problems with his attitude at all.

  16. TheeMurf says:

    Trollololololololol. U MAD TODD?

  17. Greg says:

    Erik must be a portland fan… ha!

  18. bigprof says:

    what about his hugging stance in the above pic? not bad. i’m guessing that one was of the bear hug variety intended for sigi

  19. WileyJ says:

    +1

  20. WileyJ says:

    Word.

  21. Steve says:

    Would a Sounders fan objectively break down his game these days for those of us who don’t get to see him regularly?

  22. GW says:

    You might want to wait for Davies to show he can actually get in a game for Randers before you start talking about him playing for the USMNT.

  23. Thomas513 says:

    The good: Excellent finisher with his head and his feet. Dangerous shooter to about 18-20 yards with his right foot. Excellent acceleration and top end speed. Good ball skills, excellent 1 on 1, and a better than average passer.

    The bad: relies on tricks too much (stepovers being the primary evil), there are some very unsubstantiated allegations of failing to get along in the locker room (which seem to be total crap but persist nonetheless), and, as other have mentioned, seems to always be a step away from something that makes you cringe (SJ incident, taking off shirt for yellow card, taking a throw in in the attacking third when it makes absolutely no sense).

    All in all, he is an excellent addition to the team and is probably in the top 10 of forwards in the league, pushing top five in current form.

  24. Jeremy says:

    He started off slowly, but has rounded into form and has played very well for the past two months. He makes intelligent runs, his first touch and passing have been very impressive. His favorite move is a combination of anywhere from 3-12 stepovers. He has been scoring with his head lately, but his finishing could use some work. He usually starts to tire out in the second half, but he has been playing a ton of games lately. He goes down very easy sometimes and it can be frustrating to watch. With all of that being said, he has definitely given the Sounders attack another dimension and he has consistently improved from day one. I don’t think he is anywhere close to being ready to rejoin the USMNT, but if he continues his hard work, he might get another chance in the future.

  25. giggity says:

    Eddie Johnson is dead to me.

    Biggest waste of talent.

  26. brokejumper says:

    Yeah… what has Eddie Johnson ever done with his talent?

    link to tinyurl.com

  27. Todd says:

    He could score 100 goals this season and still shouldn’t get any time at the national team. He has been done for years…he was never able to get out of the way of his ego.

    What did he say “The coach has been positive with me, my teammates have been positive with me, I’ve been working hard”. Who care’s…force them to play you by your actions not your words. “I have been working hard”…really?…you always should have been working hard. Thank good for Dempsey to clean up the stink you left at Fulham.

    Shut up and play and be thankful the MLS took you back….and be grateful the level of play is low enough that you can score regularly.

  28. Todd says:

    Thank god for Dempsey.

  29. Ben says:

    EJ was the best Sounder on the field against Chelsea, including Montero. He was constantly causing Chelsea’s backline problems and did yeoman’s hold-up work. I have heard that he came from a challenging upbringing which may explain some of his undisciplined period. But by all accounts that I have been privy to he is a really nice guy off the field and is sincerely trying to make the most of the opportunity the Sounders gave him. I am rooting for him.

  30. chris R says:

    Some of you guys never have anything good to say about anyone. Your life must be miserable.
    The negativity from several posters over and over is just sickening.
    Natural born haters. If you arent hating on Eddie’s article then its the one before that or the one after it.

  31. chris J says:

    TODD = HATER

  32. AK48 says:

    I think people hate on him b/c they think he was born with this amazing gift and hasn’t had to work for anything. This is a common narrative about certain athletes, though not so common about white athletes, as it turns out. (Ever notice that?) It’s seriously tiresome…

    It’s pretty much B.S., though, in EJ’s case. He’s a good but not a great athlete. He’s fast but not super-fast. He’s never had magic feet (like, say, Dempsey or Cleetus) or a pure soccer brain (like, say, Reyna). Like most mortals, he has to work hard to get better, which he is doing. EJ has grown up a lot — on the field and off. His return to MLS is turning out to be a great story. Thanks for the reporting, SBI.

  33. +1

    There was contact but it wasn’t a punch.

  34. ThaDeuce says:

    cap him now!

  35. GW says:

    You write as if you have some degree of personal familiarity with EJ.

    If you do not then I would say your comments are mostly empty BS or you are posting after losing your meds.

    If EJ continues to perform as he has done, so far, no easy task,of course he will get some USMNT consideration.

    If the level of MLS play being low was actually a consideration then guys like Cameron, Ream, Donovan, Shea, Beckerman et. al, would never have gotten looks from JK.