Eddie Johnson doesn't just score against bad teams, but that helps too.(Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images)
Numbers can be fun things. So can eating a bit of crow. More fun than that, though, is watching a player that was once seen as the next great thing reach a bit of that potential after so many struggles.Fans of the Seattle Sounders and maybe even of the United States National Team may be watching just that.
Eddie Johnson was a good MLS player when he left for Fulham. His athleticism was unquestionable. His willingness to take on defenders one-on-one was justified. He was also a bit young, a bit brash, but the future was bright.
Than the trip to Europe happened. He faded from National Team consideration from a combination of lack of playing time, a lack of effectiveness and reports of clubhouse issues when on loan to lower-division teams. He came back to MLS humbled. His contract is low, as were expectations from most observers.
Now, a bit over half way through his first season back in Major League Soccer, all questions about how Eddie Johnson would react are answered. Those answers are stunning. His PP90 is basically the same as it was in 2007 (1.29 all comps in 2012, 1.31 all comps in 2007), but he's doing it a bit differently.
He can still be magical with the ball at his feet. He can still jump out of the gym, to borrow a basketball phrase. But he now knows how to make those off-ball runs, which show how much better he understands the game. His runs are often timed well enough that he doesn't need to be a finisher to score, because there isn't anyone around him. He just puts it in the net.
Back in 2007 his 15 goals and 6 assists were impressive over 2,400 minutes. Now in 2012 he has 10 goals and 2 assists in 1,500+ minutes across three competitions and is competing for at least one trophy for a team that could do even more. He hasn't failed to earn a point (goal or assist) in two straight starts since early May.
His numbers are basically as good as ever.
But there's more. He is generally getting along with his teammates, with only one negative incident discovered. An incident that took weeks to become public and is such a big deal that Academy, U23 and young MLS Sounders still praise Johnson regularly on twitter. Hanauer and Co. wouldn't think of loaning him out as Fulham did. They wouldn't pass up the opportunity to keep him as his squad in Greece did. He's playing mini-golf with his daughter and Cordell Cato. He's working with the youngsters on technique and growing their knowledge of the game.
And, at this point, Johnson probably belongs back in the discussion on the US team. He's not Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey, but outside of those attackers there are none that are clearly better. At the top of Jurgen Klinsmann's 4-2-3-1 the forward needs to be able to hold the ball up against strong central defenders - check. It helps to be a decent athlete, see Altidore - check. The recent call-back of Gomez shows that current form is a necessity - check. Ability to read the game for off-ball runs from men who clearly read the game - check.
Eddie Johnson is in his peak combination of mental ability and physique. He's on form as much as any potential national teamer not named Wondolowski. His performance and attitude are different than any other point in time to include when he was in the national team picture.
The Seattle Sounders don't only have the biggest Johnson in the league. They have an honest and true Grown Ass Man who is ready to reappear in the Red, White and Blue. They have the best that Eddie Johnson has ever been.