2012 showed that Eddie Johnson was back to the form that earned him a regular spot with the US National Team from 2004-2008. The Sounders FC forward scored 14 goals in his first year back in MLS since leaving for Europe after the 2007 season and by year’s end was back with the US for two crucial FIFA World Cup qualifying matches.
Two years to the day since his last appearance with the US National Team, Johnson earned his way back into the squad under Jurgen Klinsmann.
He rewarded the coach with a stellar performance in his first two games last year, closing out the third round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying with two goals against Antigua and Barbuda and an assist against Guatemala on the game-winning goal to clinch advancement to the Hexagonal Round.
His performance in those games, along with his standout MLS season that earned him Comeback Player of the Year honors, has him back with the US National Team in 2013 as they gear up for the hexagonal round in the CONCACAF region’s qualifying tournament for the 2014 Brazil World Cup.
“It says a lot about the hard work that we put in and the goals that we set in Seattle. It’s a reward for all that hard work and shows that it didn’t go unnoticed,” said Johnson, who is joined by teammate Brad Evans on the 25-man roster for January camp. “It’s an honor whenever you can go into camp and wear your country’s shirt. It was a humbling moment and I don’t want to take the opportunity for granted.”
Johnson has come a long way in the past year. Last year at this time, he was unsure where his MLS path would take him. Then, on February 17, he joined the Sounders in a whirlwind day.
At that point, he was seeking to resurrect his career, trying to get back to the form that saw him score 12 goals with Dallas in 2004 and 15 with Kansas City in 2007.
His departure from that form was accompanied by a move to Europe. He jumped from club to club and lost his spot with the US.
Now, Johnson looks to be a regular in the MLS score column, netting 14 goals for the Sounders last season, and in the US National Team and he sees the call in a different light than he did before 2008.
“It’s like anything in life – whenever you’re a part of something and then you’re no longer a part of it, you start to miss it,” he said. “Once you work hard to put yourself back into that position and you’re a part of it again, it feels that much more special and more rewarding. I had an opportunity to be a part of the qualifiers and play an important role in getting us to the next round and that’s something that I missed. Now I’m back in the mix and I don’t want to take it for granted.”
Now preparing for his second season with the Sounders, Johnson also sees the National Team camp as a chance to show that 2012 was no fluke.
After joining the club so late in training camp last year, he suffered a pair of setbacks in the form of hamstring strains that delayed the start of his season. Now with the chance to engulf himself in camp two weeks before the Sounders get started, he’ll have a running start when he rejoins his club teammates.
He hopes that will help him improve on his start from the 2012 season.
“The expectations are going to be high because I scored goals for club and country, but that’s just extra motivation. That’s good pressure,” he said. “I’m a competitive person and I’m looking forward to the role that I’m going to play next season in Seattle and in this camp.”
The US is scheduled to play a friendly against Canada at Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium on January 29 ahead of their qualifying match against Honduras in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on February 6. The Sounders open training camp on January 21.