After a great week with the US National Team and an outstanding season with the Sounders FC, it’s clear that Eddie Johnson is right back where he belongs.
Johnson made his first appearance with the US in two years on Friday, scoring two goals to lift the Stars and Stripes to a 2-1 win over Antigua and Barbuda. He followed that up with the game-winning assist in a 3-1 win over Guatemala on Tuesday, sealing a berth in the Hexagonal round of the CONCACAF region’s 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification.
For a player that played a key role in the 2006 qualification process for the US, scoring seven goals to help the US get into the World Cup, it was an end result made sweeter by the path to get there.
“When you're playing with what are considered the best players in your country and competing, pushing each other on a day-to-day basis, I missed that. That's where every player wants to be,” Johnson said. “That's where every American player wants to be. To be a part of that, it was special."
Johnson, 28, left the Kansas City Wizards for Europe in 2008 and he struggled to get acclimated in the new environment. Soon he fell out of favor with the US National Team and this winter, after three seasons in Europe, he returned to Major League Soccer.
He came to Seattle in a preseason trade that sent Lamar Neagle and Mike Fucito to the Montreal Impact, who selected him in the allocation process. With the Sounders, he has returned to the form that brought him into the limelight initially in 2004 when he scored 12 goals for the Dallas Burn and was thrust even further with 15 goals for Kansas City in 2007.
He tops the Sounders with 14 goals and has regained the brash confidence that made him a special talent. It didn’t take scoring for the US to rejuvenate that attitude though.
“I got my confidence here. The coach bringing me here and sitting me down and telling me his expectations and what they're trying to achieve here as a club and their goals of winning an MLS Cup - bringing me in and making me a part of that puzzle, that's where I got my confidence,” he said.
The return to international duty also reunited Johnson with his former Fulham and US teammate Clint Dempsey. The current Tottenham forward was on the receiving end of Johnson’s assist against Guatemala.
The duo are clearly happy playing together and could get the opportunity to continue to do that when the US begins play in the Hexagonal round in February. That is the furthest thing from Johnson’s mind now though.
“Like I said before I got called into the camp, if I'm working hard here and scoring goals here and our team is winning, everything else is a bonus,” Johnson said after watching from the stands as the Sounders drew 0-0 with Real Salt Lake on Wednesday. “I’m not even looking too far ahead. We’ve got a game on Sunday and I’m looking forward to it.”
The Sounders will host FC Dallas in their final home match of the regular season on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.