When MLS players leave their club for international duty, it can often be difficult to strike a balance between club and country.
In the last two months, Sounders FC forward Eddie Johnson has done just that, scoring seemingly at will whether he is wearing the Rave Green or the Stars and Stripes. After a header goal on Saturday in a 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy, he is also back in a tie atop Seattle’s scoring leaderboard, sharing the top spot with Obafemi Martins and Lamar Neagle, all with eight goals.
Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid is hardly surprised by his recent resurgence, though.
“It’s something that we’ve come to expect from him,” Schmid said of Johnson’s header to break open the match against the Galaxy.
Johnson has never been one to lack confidence. It may have just taken him going to play with the national team to get him back in rhythm that has him scoring so freely now.
After Seattle’s 1-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes on July 13, Johnson left to join the U.S. National Team in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
At the time, he was mired in a bit of a scoring slump. But the player that came back to Seattle after winning the Gold Cup has been much more reminiscent of the player that scored a club-record 14 goals in the 2012 season. Since joining the U.S. squad for the Gold Cup, Johnson has four goals and one assist in five MLS starts and four goals in six appearances for the U.S. National Team.
That torrential pace continued on Saturday when he broke free from his defender and headed a Mauro Rosales corner kick into the net.
“Mauro does what Mauro does best and he put the ball in an unbelievable area,” Johnson said. “I just wanted to get up and time my jump to get the ball down.”
The connection between Rosales and Johnson has been a crucial one for Seattle. Rosales has set up 10 of Johnson’s 22 goals for Sounders FC, with much of that cohesion coming from the superior set piece delivery of Rosales.
That element of danger in dead ball situations is something that could help carry the Sounders deep in the playoffs.
“In tight games, sometimes a set piece goal makes the difference,” Schmid said. “Those are the types of goals that can swing it one way or another.”
The partnership with Rosales has been plentiful through Johnson’s two seasons in Seattle. That has translated to incredible team success and Johnson is glad to be part of it. After going 8-1-1 in the club’s last 10 matches to climb to the top spot in the West, Seattle trails the New York Red Bulls by just one point in the Supporters’ Shield standings. The last two weeks of that run have included difficult matches against Real Salt Lake and the LA Galaxy, but Seattle came out with a comprehensive win over RSL and a gritty road draw against LA.
Those results not only have helped Seattle climb the standings, but also have the team brimming with confidence heading into the final six matches of the season.
“We just got through playing two great teams and we got four points out of a possible six points,” Johnson said. “It goes to show you what we’ve got in this locker room and I’m excited to be part of this team.”