It had been 17 days since Eddie Johnson last played for the Sounders FC, playing just 19 minutes in Seattle’s loss to Santos Laguna in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.
On Sunday, he played 60 minutes in the Sounders training game against Gonzaga University and was giddy with excitement after coming off the field with a goal under his belt in Seattle’s 4-0 win over the Bulldogs.
“You probably want to ask my lungs how they feel,” he laughed after his longest stint in a game since joining the Sounders late in preseason.
The plan was for Johnson to play the first half, then work out in the gym at Starfire, but at halftime, he felt good, so he pressed on for another 15 minutes before he finally left the field.
“Physically, I felt good. I’ve been wanting to get back and it’s been frustrating not being a part of the run the guys have put on,” he said. “If I wake up and feel good than it’s another day closer to being game-fit.”
Johnson has dazzled in his brief appearances thus far for Seattle. In his first preseason game, he scored just one day after joining the team in a match against Florida Gulf Coast University. A hamstring injury kept him out of the remainder of preseason, but he came on late in both legs of the quarterfinal series against Santos Laguna, wowing the crowd at CenturyLink Field before suffering a hip strain in the second leg in Torreon, Mexico.
In his return from that injury, he scored in the 34th minute, getting to a ball in the box and rifling it home for a 2-0 lead over the college side.
The level of competition didn’t hinder Johnson’s excitement after the game.
“Bob Bradley always told me that it doesn’t matter what opponent you’re playing, a good striker will always score goals,” Johnson said. “With the help of my teammates, I was able to have some good buildup play and I just want to be as sharp as I can in front of the net. Sometimes you might not get many chances, so to get one and put it in, it’s good for my confidence and it’s good for my teammates having confidence in me.”
Johnson was among four Sounders returning from injury in Sunday’s training game. Steve Zakuani played his first game against live competition since suffering a fractured tibia and fibula on April 22, 2011. Cordell Cato made a second-half appearance after injuring his ankle while training with Trinidad and Tobago in preparation for the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament. And Andrew Duran played for the first time since knee surgery in early-March.
Johnson, who turned 28 on Saturday, scored 41 goals in 127 appearances for Dallas and Kansas City before a stint in Europe. He may be able to make his debut for the Sounders in an MLS match on Saturday when Seattle faces DC United in their first road trip of the 2012 season.