High-scoring forward Eddie Johnson is back with Sounders FC after contributing two goals and an assist in two victories with the U.S. national team in World Cup qualifiers during the past week.
Eddie Johnson waited two years for a call-up back to the U.S. national team.
In two games, he proved he belonged.
The Sounders FC forward, who was involved with the national team from 2004 through 2010, played almost every minute in two FIFA World Cup qualifying matches during the past week and helped lead the U.S. team to two wins.
Johnson scored both goals, including the winner in stoppage time, in a dramatic 2-1 victory Friday at Antigua and Barbuda, then earned the game-winning assist in a 3-1 win over Guatemala on Tuesday. As a result, the U.S. clinched a spot in the six-nation final round of CONCACAF qualifying, where the top three countries advance to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and a fourth enters a play-in game.
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He must have been bursting with added confidence in his return, right?
“Nah, I think I got my confidence here,” Johnson said in the Sounders’ locker room after Wednesday’s 0-0 tie with Real Salt Lake. He wasn’t available to play after playing 89 minutes for the U.S. the day before.
“My coach having the confidence in me, putting me out there week in and week out, that’s where I got my confidence.”
Johnson joked upon his call-up that Seattle coach Sigi Schmid’s relationship with U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann — a fellow German and friend of roughly 10 years — might have helped.
Joke or not, Schmid denied he had any influence.
“I wasn’t in Jurgen’s ear,” he said. “There were times where we talked … but it wasn’t a situation where I was campaigning or anything like that. It was definitely Jurgen’s initiative, and his initiative came about because of Eddie’s play.”
Johnson leads the Sounders with 14 goals, a franchise record for a season. He was named to the MLS All-Star team this summer, and scored the winning goal for the All-Star team in its exhibition against Chelsea FC.
His career revival carried over to the national team, which was of little surprise to his Seattle teammates.
“He’s not changing anything,” said forward Fredy Montero. “He’s scoring goals here, and he went to the national team and he’s scoring goals, too. Hopefully when he comes back, he helps us to keep going in the playoffs and make it further than the last two, three years.”
Johnson is expected to be back for Sunday’s game against FC Dallas, the Sounders’ regular-season home finale. And while he’s focused on succeeding in Seattle, this past week with the national team satisfied a different kind of hunger.
“Where 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,” said Johnson. “That’s where every player wants to be at. That’s where every American player wants to be at. To be a part of that, it was special.”