Redemption. A word that few deemed appropriate for American forward Eddie Johnson, but what a difference a few headers make. The 28 year old began his career as a MLS sensation by scoring 41 goals in 6 seasons in the US, but his sequential move to Europe in 2008 changed everything.
Once a dazzling prodigy, Johnson found himself on a continent of uncertainty with a personal and professional life crumbling. In his three seasons overseas Johnson scored only seven goals between four different clubs (Fulham, Cardiff City, Aris, Preston North End), with most of his stops being on loan from his originating club Fulham.
With a soccer career in shambles, Eddie Johnson was as lost as any professional could be. But thanks to a hungry ownership group from Seattle, the former MLS All-Star would receive a second chance from the league he started with.
The Seattle Sounders signed Eddie Johnson in the spring to provide goal-scoring and an offensive counterpart to designated player Fredy Montero. Seattle released two fan favorites–Mike Fucito and Lemar Neagle–in order to free-up cap space for Johnson, a move that some Sounders faithful despised. The press welcomed the trade hesitantly, exploiting the rumored mental weaknesses of Johnson.
13 goals later nobody in Seattle remembers the anxieties of early spring, and Johnson’s soaring success has brought him back to MLS notoriety. After a month of chemistry growth with forward partner Fredy Montero, Johnson really began hitting his stride–specifically during plays in the air. Out of his 13 goals, 10 have been from headers near the box, showing Johnson’s ability to connect with his midfielders Mauro Rosales and Brad Evans.
Saturday’s match at home versus Chivas USA showcased Johnson’s ability to come up clutch when the Rave Green need it most–a trait he has been portraying all season. A header goal in the 28th minute from a Christian Tiffert cross was Johnson’s first moment of brilliance, but what happened in the 88th minute was legendary. After missing chance after chance, Seattle was pleading for the go-ahead goal at home and Eddie Johnson was the man to deliver. In the 89th minute, Fredy Montero beat two defenders out wide and crossed a deep ball near the box where Johnson slid behind Rauwshan McKenzie for another header goal. The double tally from Seattle’s new all-time single season goal-scorer gave Sounders the victory and moved them to second place in the Western Conference.
Eddie Johnson’s efforts have not only created him into a Seattle hero, but has brought him back to a point of peace in his career. With an playing identity, supportive club, and talented teammates, Johnson has found the perfect equation for success. His energy has created Seattle’s frontline into the most dynamic attack in league, and his eye for the back of the net will be most needed during Seattle’s achilles heel–the playoffs.
An experiment that began in the spring, now doesn’t feel like a risk at all. Eddie Johnson seems to be in his most natural position–scoring goals and smiling for the Seattle Sounders.