USA vs. Panama
Tuesday, June 11; 6:30 pm PT; CenturyLink Field
2014 World Cup Qualifying match
It wasn’t long ago that a 20-year-old Eddie Johnson exploded onto the scene for the US National Team in a qualifying match for the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
The date was October 13, 2004, at Washington DC’s RFK Stadium. Johnson’s international career started with a substitute appearance against El Salvador four days earlier and he scored his first goal for the US that night. On this night against Panama, though, his scoring prowess would reach fabled levels.
He entered the match in the 65th minute, a lithe youngster hoping to make an impression on the coaches, his teammates and fans of the US National Team – and prove that that first goal was no fluke.
The US was carrying a 2-0 lead off of two goals from Landon Donovan, but weren’t about to let up on Panama. And Johnson was in the middle of their scoring frenzy.
In the 69th minute, he headed in a cross from the left side to build a 3-0 lead with his second goal in as many appearances. He wasn’t done there, though. Not even close.
In the 84th minute, he scored again off a header, this time redirecting a ball bouncing around in the box off a US corner kick. Finally, he scored with his feet on another ball from the left side, hitting a first-time shot off the near-post run in the 86th minute to complete the hattrick.
“That was an unbelievable moment and experience and something that I’ll cherish for the rest of my career,” Johnson said. “Hopefully I can be out on the field helping the guys get another ‘W’.”
The players and locations may be different, but the objective remains the same on Tuesday night when Johnson and the US National Team will again host Panama in a World Cup qualifying match, this time at CenturyLink Field.
Johnson has made Seattle his home, scoring 18 MLS goals for the Sounders in 36 matches over two seasons. He has four goals in eight matches already in 2013 and has been a regular with the US National Team ever since reemerging with two standout performances against Antigua and Barbuda and Guatemala in the Group Stage of World Cup qualifying.
His two goals and one assist came as a left midfielder in Jurgen Klinsmann’s attack, a position that Johnson could play again in the match against Panama. And while he is a striker at heart, he also knows that he can contribute to the team’s success if put on the wing.
“At the end of the day, I’m not the coach and I don’t make the decisions, but we’re in this camp for a reason. If the coach is going to put me out wide, it’s for a reason. He sees that I can be more effective there against that opponent on that given day,” Johnson said. “But I’m happy just to be back here and I’ll soak up as much as this as I can.”