With each time Eddie Johnson touched the ball, the 23,433 fans on hand at CenturyLink Field collectively held their breath in anticipation as the Sounders FC’s new striker made his Seattle debut on Wednesday night against Santos Laguna.
In his 12 minutes, Johnson dazzled with his footwork and managed a late shot on a header off a cross from Mauro Rosales that skipped wide.
That moment was the only thing that could have made Johnson’s debut any better as the Sounders topped the Mexican side 2-1 in the first leg of the aggregate goal series that concludes on Wednesday in Torreon, Mexico.
“It was a good game to come into,” Johnson said. “I think the team played really well. It was another good performance in front of our home crowd.”
Johnson came to the Sounders late in preseason, arriving through a trade with the Montreal Impact that sent Mike Fucito and Lamar Neagle to the expansion club.
Despite a late start and a spell on the sidelines with a hamstring injury, Johnson was able to show his quality in his time on the field.
“You could see Eddie is a good player. He brings some calm to the game,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “He settled the ball and connected his passes. His speed is certainly going to be a danger. He’s a skillful player, he’s got speed and he almost got the goal off the header as well. I think he’s going to help us for sure.”
Johnson was one of four players to make their debut for the Sounders in their first match of 2012.
Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning made four saves to hold Santos Laguna at bay and calm the worries that Seattle would struggle without the services of their goalkeeper for their first three seasons in MLS, Kasey Keller.
Adam Johansson made his first start at right back, striking a strong defensive presence while also making several overlapping runs in linking with midfielder Mauro Rosales in a dangerous right-sided attack.
Finally, Marc Burch subbed on for the final minute of play, making his first appearance for the Sounders, albeit a brief one.
With the match on Wednesday, then a quick turnaround to their MLS season-opener on Saturday, the rest of the Sounders newcomers will surely have opportunities to see the field for the first time for Seattle. The team will fly back from Mexico on Thursday, then face Toronto FC at CenturyLink Field on Saturday.