For the second straight season, the Sounders FC have gone into Florida for training camp and unexpectedly added a major piece to their club.
Last year, Mauro Rosales joined the team in Bradenton and quickly adjusted to his new teammates to score 5 goals and add 13 assists to earn the Major League Soccer Newcomer of the Year award.
This year, it came in the form of US National Team forward Eddie Johnson, who joined the Sounders in a trade with the Montreal Impact on Friday, adding a veteran of 41 appearances with the Stars and Stripes.
“We are very excited about bringing Eddie to the team and a unique skill set and a type of forward that we don’t currently have on our team,” owner/GM Adrian Hanauer said.
In Johnson, the Sounders add a potent forward to pair with the club’s all-time leading scorer, Fredy Montero, who has 34 goals in three seasons for the Sounders, fifth most in all MLS.
In seven MLS seasons, Johnson scored 41 goals and added 13 assists for Dallas and Kansas City.
“When you now look in the face of Seattle and you’re thinking about going up against Eddie Johnson … Fredy Montero, later down the line a Steve Zakuani, a Mauro Rosales, the defense has to spread itself out a little bit,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said.
Johnson was selected in the second round of the 2001 MLS SuperDraft at just 16 years old and saw limited playing time in his first two seasons before starting 13 of the 22 matches he appeared in during the 2003 season, scoring three goals.
His breakout came in 2004 though, when he netted 13 goals for the Dallas Burn and he carried that momentum into the international game, bursting on the scene with a goal in his first appearance for the US National Team in a World Cup Qualifier against El Salvador.
He wasn’t done there though, following up his debut performance with a hat-trick off the bench in a 6-0 win over Panama three days later.
The next two seasons were less productive on the club level for Johnson, with just seven goals in 34 matches with Dallas and Kansas City. However, he added four goals to his US National Team total in that stretch.
In 2007, he returned to form on the club level, scoring 15 goals to finish fourth in the league in scoring.
After that season, he transferred to Fulham in the English Premier League and played for them and on loan to Cardiff City and Preston North End of the English League Championship and Aris of the Greek Superleague.
“I’m just hoping I can bring my experience to the team, work hard every day, and try to accomplish the goals the coach has set forth for the team this year,” Johnson said.
Johnson won’t have much time to become acclimated with his new club – the Sounders host Santos Laguna in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday, March 7 at CenturyLink Field.
Having just 19 days to prepare for the match isn’t a concern for Schmid though.
“I think good players catch on very quickly. It didn’t take Mauro Rosales long, it didn’t take Fredy Montero long to catch his rhythm in our league, and it’s not going to take Eddie Johnson long to catch his coordination with the team and catch his rhythm,” Schmid said.
Johnson will join the Sounders in training on Saturday as they continue their training camp at Bradenton’s IMG Academy. Their next preseason match is Sunday at 1 pm Pacific Time (4 pm Eastern) against Florida Gulf Coast University, then they travel to Cancun, Mexico, to face Atlante FC.