After every goal that Obafemi Martins scores, Seattle fans lose their minds as the Sounders FC striker celebrates with his signature backflip.
On Saturday night at CenturyLink Field, those same fans got a taste of another celebration that they will love just as much. After Eddie Johnson netted his fifth goal of the season in the 22nd minute of a 3-0 win over FC Dallas, he turned toward the west side of the stadium where Clint Dempsey was sitting with his family at suite level. Pointing toward his new teammate, Johnson mimed slapping hands twice, then saluting, a celebration the duo has made its own in its time together with the U.S. National Team and at Fulham.
Thus, the Johnson-Dempsey era in Seattle has begun.
“I’m happy for him. I’m happy for the league. It just shows you where soccer is in this country,” Johnson said. “Having guys like that come back says a lot about how much the league has grown and how much better the soccer is here in America. It’s going to only attract many other good football players throughout the world.”
Their celebratory salute is borne of a longstanding friendship that dates back to their days together on the U.S. U-20 National Team in 2002 and includes spells with the U.S. National Team, where the two have been roommates for most of their international careers, and at Fulham in the English Premier League.
They’ve been spending more time together of late, as Johnson has revitalized his international career with a solid showing in the 2012 season with Sounders FC.
While Johnson was asking Dempsey about his move to Tottenham over the last year, Dempsey was also probing about Major League Soccer. And, more specifically, Seattle, where Johnson was playing in front of record-setting crowds each week.
Then when the U.S. came to Seattle to face Panama in a World Cup qualifying match on June 11, the wheels started spinning a little faster. Dempsey spent some time in the city and praised the city’s immense soccer culture. But there was much more to it, according to Johnson.
“It suited him,” Johnson said.
Dempsey told Johnson that he would love to come play in Seattle someday.
“A couple more years in Europe,” he said, then MLS would be back in his plans.
Then, he took the pitch at CenturyLink Field. 40,847 fans, mostly donning the red, white and blue of the U.S.A., greeted the team with the type of support that shifts the landscape of soccer in America.
What started with a whisper was soon blasted through a megaphone as Dempsey sought a move from Tottenham. Sounders FC stepped to the plate and it wasn’t long before Dempsey was raising a Sounders FC scarf alongside Majority Owner Joe Roth, Owner and General Manager Adrian Hanauer and President Peter McLoughlin.
The ovation he received on Saturday night was just a taste of things to come.
Now reunited in Seattle, Johnson envisions many celebrations with his newest teammate at CenturyLink Field as the duo bask in the glow of Sounders FC success surrounded by upwards of 40,000 fans each week.
“We’re going to see a lot of saluting this year,” he said through a sparkling smile.