Just two days after being named to the US National Team for their three World Cup qualifying matches in June, Eddie Johnson was named MLS Player of the Week for his two-goal effort in Seattle’s win over league-leading FC Dallas on Saturday
The Sounders FC forward took advantage of a high line from Dallas to pounce for two goals, giving him four goals on the season to lead Seattle in scoring. Johnson became the first Seattle player to earn Player of the Week honors in 2013, and the American striker won the award twice last season.
It was a breakout performance for Johnson after he struggled to find a rhythm early in the season because of injuries to himself and to the players around him on the Sounders roster.
“For the first couple games of the season, my body was beat up and it was frustrating because there was a time that as a team, we faced a really difficult challenge. Considering we’re an organization that usually starts the season off really well, we found it was a difficult challenge to start the season,” Johnson said. “But it was just getting that rhythm and getting that confidence, and staying true to myself and believing in my teammates.”
The double on Saturday, Johnson’s third brace in 35 games for the Sounders, seemed to be a good indicator that the Seattle forwards are clicking after the team started the season with just two goals through the first five games. Now, the Sounders are on a six-match unbeaten streak and the scoring is a big reason for that success, particularly in the last two matches when the Sounders scored four goals against the San Jose Earthquakes and FC Dallas.
Seattle’s forwards, Johnson, Lamar Neagle and Obafemi Martins, now have 10 goals between them and Johnson is leading the charge with his four tallies.
“We have really emphasized over the last few weeks now that we’ve gotten them out there that they really look for each other and find each other,” said Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid. “You see Neagle and Eddie up front they are playing combinations off of each other-one is showing and one is going and you know the other is getting back in there if the ball goes past them. Same thing when Oba comes in.”
The Sounders are now 9-2-4 in games that Johnson scores and haven’t lost in the last 10 matches that he has registered a goal. And while he and Neagle have found success playing together, the Sounders have only gotten 144 minutes on the field from their top strike pair. Once Johnson and Martins are able to gain a better understanding through more matches together on the field, the Seattle offense may become one of the most potent in MLS.
Along the way, though, Johnson will miss more matches playing with the US National Team and Martins may do the same with Nigeria. Hence, the performance of Neagle has become even more important in recent weeks.
“My hat's off to Lamar Neagle. When you've got someone like that scoring goals, nothing is guaranteed,” Johnson said. “It’s good to see different guys scoring goals and we just want to continue pushing each other in training and it’s paying dividends."
Johnson will be available for the Sounders this week against the LA Galaxy, then will join the US as they play friendlies against Belgium and Germany before facing Jamaica in a road World Cup qualifying match and home matches against Panama at CenturyLink Field on June 11 and against Honduras on June 18 at Rio Tito Stadium in Sandy, Utah. He will miss two matches – a road match against Chivas USA on June 1 and at home against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC on June 8.