When the Sounders FC acquired forward Eddie Johnson in a trade with the Montreal Impact during the preseason, the US international knew that there would be high expectations on him in Seattle.
He came in with a tremendous pedigree of goal-scoring prowess at the MLS level after he scored 12 goals in 2004 with the Dallas Burn and 15 goals in 2007 with the Kansas City Wizards, as well as his 12 goals in 41 caps for the US National Team.
The anticipation was palpable at CenturyLink Field as he stepped onto the field for the first time in a Super Cyan kit in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinal against Santos Laguna.
On one of the first times he touched the ball, he dazzled with a series of step-overs on a run up the right side. Moments later, he banged a header just outside the frame off a Mauro Rosales cross.
His instants of brilliance had the Sounders faithful pining for more – which is just how Johnson likes it.
“When I came in, the fans showed me a great reception. They all know what I can do,” he said.
Those fans would need to wait though. An injury to his hip flexor would require Johnson to restart much of his progress in the realm of his fitness.
On Saturday, much of that work since he was downed on March 14 finally bore fruit. Playing 90 minutes for the first time in a Sounders uniform, Johnson scored his first goal in rave green to lift the Sounders to a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire and a 4-1-1 record.
Following his stellar 2007 season, Johnson ventured off to Europe to play for Fulham, but his European adventure wouldn’t be quite as fruitful, which brought him back to Major League Soccer and to the Sounders.
There, he has been impressed with the rest of the attacking players with the Sounders, mixing with the midfield of Mauro Rosales, Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans and Alvaro Fernandez while combining with Fredy Montero at forward along with David Estrada, who has four goals and caused an own-goal with his first-half shot on Saturday.
“Whenever you have a guy like Rosales out there and Ozzie and Brad Evans in the middle and Flaco and Estrada and Montero, what attacking guy coming on the field wouldn’t want to come into that group?” Johnson said.
Much of Seattle’s success will hinge on the individual success of Johnson. Coming off four seasons in Europe that saw him play limited action and slip out of the regular selection for the US National Team, the 28-year-old forward is looking to revitalize his international career and sees Seattle as the perfect launching pad for those aspirations.
“I think I’m in the right environment with a team that creates a lot of goal-scoring chances and I know the fans are going to see a lot of goals this year,” he said.
Already the top-scoring team in MLS in 2011 and assurances of more goals from a player like Johnson, it’s no wonder the fans in Seattle are left in breathless anticipation.
The Sounders will host the LA Galaxy on Wednesday and the Philadelphia Union on Saturday as they continue down the path of five matches in 15 days. That stretch will finish with a road match against FC Dallas on May 9 before finishing up at home against Real Salt Lake on May 12.