Chances are Eddie Johnson will be making a start again for the U.S. National Team tonight when they take on Guatemala at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas. Johnson scored two goals for the U.S. against Antigua and Barbuda on Friday evening which was exactly what U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann had asked the Bunnell, Florida native to do.
“We sent him into Antigua telling him you have to win those battles in the air for us and you have to give us more presence and push it harder and he did that,” said Klinsmann on Monday. “He has worked himself back into the picture. I’ve been talking to Sigi Schmid the last couple of months and he got his chance now and he took his chance.”
The journey back for Johnson has been a long and hard one. He last made an appearance for the national team on Oct. 12, 2010 and it was Jun. 15, 2008 the last time he scored which was against Barbados in a World Cup qualifier. Going back even further, Oct. 13, 2004 was the last time Johnson scored multiple goals in a game. He had a hat-trick in a 6-0 thumping of Panama at RFK Stadium.
Johnson was eager to try his hand in Europe after having success in MLS and moved to Fulham in the winter transfer period of 2007-08. He struggled to catch on with a mid-season transfer under coach Roy Hodgson even though he had fellow American’s Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey, Kasey Keller, and Brian McBride to lean on.
“Over there your chances are very limited,” said Johnson before training on Monday. “If you don’t take advantage of your chances right away and then the next group comes in – – you know there’s always players coming and going over there which makes the competition very high. My first couple of months over there I was coming in on the offseason over here and I was playing catch up. I had a couple of starts and if things had gone my way? It’s all about confidence for a striker. You go one, two, three, four games without scoring and you start to second guess yourself. Especially when the pressure is as high as it is over there.”
So after a long spell away from U.S. National Team and lots of struggles to find consistent playing time with any club team, Johnson landed in Seattle this past winter where he has made a definite impact with the Sounders scoring 14 goals so far. But the success Johnson has had this year did not come easy. He says after coming back from Europe and struggling to find a club, this past offseason was the lowest point he had ever been at. He also left his agent Richard Motzkin who he had been with his entire career.
“I was trying to do things on my own and had a cousin, who I was very close to, pass away,” said the 28-year-old Johnson. “It really made me step away from the game and focus on family. Coming back from Fulham and not really having had any opportunities overseas that suited me and then to have the rest of the world looking at me a certain way. ‘Eddies not fit – he’s not good enough.’ When you start to read the papers and the things that are being said on the internet and not having a club for seven or eight months, you do start to wonder if my time is up? If I have that drive to get back to where I want to be, scoring goals at a high level in a first division and on a national team?”
“A lot of credit goes to Sigi Schmid and Adrian [Hanauer] and working with Chris Henderson who I worked with in Kansas City before I went to Europe. Chris knew what I could do on a day-to-day basis,” Johnson said. “Being around people that believe in you it makes you feel that much more at ease. Especially being a new player in a new organization where there’s a lot of expectations as there is in Seattle.”
“I knew at my age it had to be the right opportunity and had to be the right fit and I couldn’t ask for a better team to play for than Seattle under a good coach who has a lot of experience and has dealt with players who have had up and downs in their careers and resurrected them. It was a win-win situation.”
These days, Johnson seems to be surrounding himself with people that believe in him. After last Friday’s two goal performance for the U.S., add Jurgen Klinsmann to that list.