At 23 years old, Eddie Johnson was one of the hottest young stars in Major League Soccer.
He had 12 goals and 3 assists for the Dallas Burn in 2004, then added 15 goals and 6 assists for the Kansas City Wizards in 2007, prompting a move to Fulham in the English Premier League.
Now 27, he has returned to MLS and will be paired with another rising young star in 24-year-old Fredy Montero as they look to guide the Sounders FC’s attack in the club’s fourth season.
If they can form the combination that head coach Sigi Schmid, technical director Chris Henderson and general manager Adrian Hanauer envisioned when they traded fan-favorites Mike Fucito and Lamar Neagle to acquire Johnson, they could be the most potent forward duo in the league.
“As a forward, he is the type of player you want to play with. Someone who is not selfish, who has great vision on the field. You make good runs and he’ll find you,” Johnson said. “He’s a good passer of the ball, good scorer and has great technical ability.”
Montero, who has teamed with Nate Jaqua, Freddie Ljungberg, Mike Fucito, Blaise Nkufo, O’Brian White and others in his first three years with mixed results from his strike partner. Even at their best, critics vied for a premium striker to fuel the Sounders with Montero.
In Johnson, they may have found that goal-scoring threat.
Humbled by a tough stint with Fulham that resulted in loans to three different clubs in the four years he was under contract at Craven Cottage, Johnson is now a different player at 27 years old and he is ready to regain his goal-scoring form of 2007 and earn his way back into consideration for the US National Team in time for the 2014 World Cup.
His experience with the US National Team – 12 goals in 42 caps – has drawn praise and his experience overseas has earned him the respect of his teammates.
“He’s a good player,” Montero said. “He’s played all over Europe and he’s going to bring that experience to the team for us.”
The respect is mutual, as Johnson knows quite well of Montero’s exploits in his first three years in MLS. That includes the Newcomer of the Year award in 2009 when he netted 12 goals and 9 assists in Seattle’s inaugural season, followed by a 10-goal, 10-assist output in 2010. Last season, after a slow start that was hampered by a wrist injury, he exploded with six goals and four assists while picking up a point in each of his final eight matches of the season to finish the year with 12 goals and 7 assists.
“Fredy Montero is a great player. Great ability. Great philosophy of the game,” Johnson said. “He has great vision on the field and can score goals and is a very important part of this organization.”
Early in their tandem, Montero and Johnson have been limited in their partnership to just small-sided games in training, but they have already shown the makings of a high-scoring combination.
“It’s still going to take a little bit of time,” Schmid said. “We’ve had them play together in practice and they’re both good players. Good players develop an understanding pretty quickly.”
The first glimpse of Montero and Johnson teaming together for the Sounders could come as early as next Wednesday night at CenturyLink Field, when the Sounders take on Santos Laguna in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. Johnson has been ruled out of the Community Shield match on Wednesday night against Jaguares de Chiapas, with free admission and donations benefitting the club’s charity partners.