In 2011, Mauro Rosales came to the Sounders FC unexpectedly during training camp in Florida and, while his impact was felt right away, he really found his form in the summer months and emerged as the MLS Newcomer of the Year with five goals and 13 assists.
This year, a similar story can be told for Eddie Johnson. The former US National Team forward met with the Sounders in Bradenton, Florida, and proved a volatile strike partner for Fredy Montero nearly from Day One. However, like Rosales, he truly has started to show his value as the Sounders have moved into the second half of the season.
A big reason for Johnson’s success in 2012 has been the service of the man who preceded him, as Rosales has provided assists on five of Johnson’s nine goals this year.
That’s a fact not lost on the 28-year-old Johnson.
“I want to keep him healthy the rest of the season,” he said. “A lot of people give me credit for scoring the goals, but his delivery from out wide into the box has been exceptional. As a new player, you want to get familiar with the players around you. I know when he gets the ball in an area where he has time and space, he’s going to put the ball in an area where I can attack the ball. It’s about just putting myself in a good position.”
While the combination of Rosales and Johnson has meant a resurgence for Johnson, it has also done the same for Rosales.
In an 11-match stretch in 2011, he had four goals and nine assists, but then a knee injury thwarted his darkhorse run at the MVP award. In coming back from the injury, Rosales suffered another setback and he finished the season on the bench watching as the Sounders fell to Real Salt Lake in the playoffs. He would also miss four of the first five matches of 2012 with injuries and eased his way back into the lineup upon his return.
Now healthy, he is helping Johnson rediscover the scoring touch that drew him attention from the US National Team and abroad when he scored 12 goals in 2004 with Dallas and 15 goals in 2007 with Kansas City.
Johnson finds himself now in a run of form that is better than any other Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid has seen from him.
“I think he’s better now than he was in 2006,” Schmid said, noting his maturity as a strong factor. “A lot of it has been him. He came in working very hard. I think he’s been humble. He decided that he was going to work hard and get back to the things that made him a good player.”
If he looks more comfortable than he ever has on the field, it is because Johnson is growing more acquainted to his surroundings.
“I’ve been able to relax a lot,” said Johnson, who called this his ‘most consistent run’. “They’ve always been positive with me and whenever you’re in a positive environment, only positivity can come out of it.”
Rosales and Johnson combined on a goal in the Sounders FC’s previous match against the LA Galaxy, a 2-0 victory for Seattle at CenturyLink Field on May 2. They will meet again Sunday at 6 pm at CenturyLink Field in a nationally televised match on ESPN2. Tickets are available at SoundersFC.com and ticket sales have already surpassed the 59,000 mark.