Time for big players to step up, says Johnson

Time for big players to step up, says Johnson

Ahead of the Sounders trip to Portland, Eddie Johnson is ready to put his name at the top of the list of those who will need to put in a performance.

Sounders FC vs. Portland Timbers
MLS Cup Playoffs; Western Conference Semifinals
November 7, 2013, 8 pm PT; JELD-WEN Field
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Network; 97.3 FM

There is no understating the importance of Thursday’s playoff match against the Portland Timbers. It’s win or go home.

These are the times when teams call on their best players to play their best and forward Eddie Johnson is as ready as ever, along with the likes of Clint Dempsey, Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso and, if available, Obafemi Martins, to rise to the occasion.

“This is where the big players step up,” Johnson said. “It’s up to us to be on our game because when we’re on our game it’s contagious to the starting 11.”

Johnson has shown a propensity for scoring goals in big moments for the Sounders, particularly when facing the Timbers, against whom he has four goals in six career matches. He also pocketed a playoff goal last year in the Western Conference Championship series with the LA Galaxy and against Colorado in last week's Knockout Round.

Seattle’s leading scorer in each of the last two seasons, Johnson has 23 goals for the Rave Green, adding six more in the Open Cup, CONCACAF Champions League and MLS Cup playoff matches. He has also tallied 19 goals in 59 caps for the U.S. National Team, including five goals in 15 matches this year.

He will draw on that experience as the Sounders look to bounce back from a 2-1 deficit in the second leg, and looks to cement his place in Sounders FC history as a big-game performer.

“Anytime you have an opportunity to be remembered or leave a legacy, you don’t want to take it for granted. This game can make you a fan favorite,” he said. “You really want to give the fans something to feel good about on the journey back home to Seattle.”

With Lamar Neagle out for the match, serving a one-match suspension for yellow card accumulation after receiving two cautions in two postseason matches, Seattle is hopeful to have Martins available for the match after he missed six of the last seven matches with a groin injury. He scored eight goals to go with four assists in 20 matches this year, this after scoring 69 goals in 12 seasons in the top leagues in Italy, England, Germany, Russia and Spain.

“You want everybody in the mix,” Evans said. “You want all the big players playing in big games. That’s how they’ve made their careers.”

With no away goals tiebreaker, Seattle needs a one-goal victory to force overtime and anything more will win the series outright and send Sounders FC to the Western Conference Championship for the second straight year.

“This is as big as it gets,” Johnson said.

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