The clock at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore read “59:30” when Eddie Johnson first stepped on the field as a substitute for Chris Wondolowski for the U.S. National Team in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals against El Salvador on Sunday.
The Sounders FC forward was making his first appearance in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup after head coach Jurgen Klinsmann called him in for the knockout rounds and Johnson wasted no time in rewarding Klinsmann for his late call. He jogged into the El Salvador box and awaited the incoming corner kick. Landon Donovan played the ball short to Jose Torres, who touched it off for Donovan to bend the ball into the box. Without breaking stride, Johnson charged in on the curling ball at the edge of the six-yard box and rose above the El Salvador defense and slammed a header into the net to give the U.S. a 3-1 lead.
He was on the field for just 15 seconds and was already celebrating his 16th goal for the U.S. and just over 30 minutes later, he was celebrating a 5-1 victory to send the U.S. through to the semifinals on Wednesday at Cowboy Stadium where they will meet with Honduras, who were 1-0 winners over Costa Rica on Sunday.
“The team’s been doing a good job and I just wanted to come into the team,” Johnson said in a post-game interview on Fox television. “The coach brought me in to make a difference and I’m very fortunate to be part of a great result tonight.”
The goal was a bit of a flashback from Johnson’s first cap with the U.S. National Team. Coming on as a sub against El Salvador on October 9, 2004, in a qualifying match for the 2006 World Cup, Johnson needed just four minutes to score his first international goal, helping America to a 2-0 win in San Salvador.
Johnson added an assist on Sunday on a night highlighted by Donovan finishing with one goal and three assists.
With a crowd of 70,540 at the Baltimore Ravens home stadium, it was somewhat familiar territory for Johnson. He regularly plays in front of a large crowd at CenturyLink Field with Sounders FC, and pointed out afterward that he appreciates a big crowd, even if large portions are supporting the opposition.
“These are the games we live for as professional soccer players. This is what we dream about playing in front of,” he said. “It just goes to show how much the sport has grown in America.”
Wednesday’s semifinal will be televised on Fox Soccer beginning at 4 pm PT.