The Sounders made a bold move Friday, trading fan favorites Mike Fucito and Lamar Neagle to Montreal for 27-year-old forward Eddie Johnson.
In a shocking, roster-shaking move, Sounders FC acquired well-traveled forward Eddie Johnson from the Montreal Impact in a trade Friday.
Adding the experienced 27-year-old, who has played 41 games for the U.S. national team, came at a high cost, however, as Seattle lost fan favorites Mike Fucito and Lamar Neagle in the deal.
The bold move is not without concerns. Johnson has had an unproductive past few years bouncing around clubs from England to Greece to Mexico.
The potential reward, the Sounders say, was too great to pass up. Johnson will join the team Saturday.
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“Certainly Eddie has been a high-profile player for a number of years in the U.S. and in global football,” said Adrian Hanauer, general manager and part owner. “(He’s got) a unique skill set and is a type of forward that we don’t currently have on our team.”
That skill set is a combination of size (Johnson is 6 feet tall), speed and finishing ability that could finally provide the Sounders with a steady forward partner alongside Fredy Montero.
Coach Sigi Schmid said he has admired Johnson as a player for almost 10 years, calling the native of Daytona Beach, Fla., an established forward with good pedigree.
“I’ve always felt he was a very talented player and a player who had a lot of potential and ability,” said Schmid, adding that the Johnson/Montero combination is “going to give us a lot of joy by scoring a lot of goals.”
Johnson very nearly joined MLS last summer — his signing was actually prematurely announced on a leaguewide conference call — but the deal fell through at the last second. Johnson said he was of “two minds” at the time, as he still wanted to prove himself in Europe but also looked forward to coming home.
MLS is where Johnson’s professional career began in 2001. He played five seasons for FC Dallas before being traded to Kansas City. There, a standout 14-goal season in 2007 led to a transfer to Fulham of the English Premier League. He wasn’t quite able to establish himself for the southwest London club, however, and went on loan to Cardiff City and Preston North End in England’s lower divisions, and also Aris in Greece.
Last year, after the MLS deal fell through, he nearly signed with Puebla in Mexico, but a clash of opinions between the team’s coach and technical director prevented the deal. As a result, some misinformation was spread about Johnson being out of shape — a claim the new Sounder denies.
Amid the whirlwind that has been his career recently, Johnson has kept an eye on MLS and is eager to settle his roots in Seattle for a successful stay.
“Whenever’s family involved, you want stability,” he said. “You don’t want to move your kids and wife around anymore.”
Johnson will make $100,000 this season, according to a report in The Washington Post, a seemingly affordable salary for the cap-constrained Sounders. There is a club option for $150,000 in 2013. Johnson has been training the past few months at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where the Sounders have also been since Feb. 11.
Schmid said Johnson will “certainly” have an impact in Sounders FC’s season-opening series against Mexico’s Santos Laguna in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. Whether that’s as a starter or off the bench will be determined in the next few weeks.
“Good players catch on very quickly,” said Schmid. “It didn’t take Mauro Rosales long. It didn’t take Fredy Montero … it’s not going to take Eddie Johnson long.”
For Johnson, the immediate goals are simple.
“I’m just hoping I can bring my experience to the team and work hard every day and try to accomplish the goals that the coach has set forth for the team this year,” he said.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @joshuamayers