The Sounder’s Eddie Johnson Scores Two For The US

by A.J. Coltrane

There was a lot of surprised reaction last week when Jozy Alitodore was left off of the US squad for the two upcoming World Cup qualifiers. To quote Wahl:

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann left forward Jozy Altidore off his squad for the U.S.’s two important upcoming World Cup qualifiers, a decision that may well be the most surprising of Klinsmann’s 14-month tenure.

It’s true that Altidore has not had a standout year for the U.S., providing no goals and one assist in two starts and four substitute appearances. With Hérculez Gómez and Clint Dempsey expected to start up top in Friday’s qualifier at Antigua and Barbuda, it would not have been surprising to see Altidore come off the bench as a second-half sub. But for Altidore to be omitted entirely from the 24-man squad is a shock. (Pure forwards Gómez, Eddie Johnson and Alan Gordon are on the roster instead.)

After all, Altidore, 22, is tied for the Dutch league lead in goals with eight for AZ Alkmaar, including a terrific slaloming strike Sept. 30. The World Cup 2010 veteran has also played in a team-leading 17 straight World Cup qualifiers for the U.S. and brings big-game experience to the table. Under Klinsmann, the U.S. has scored more than one goal just three times in the coach’s 18 games, which makes you wonder why he would leave the U.S.’ most prolific European-based goal-scorer at the moment off the squad.

It worked out. Eddie Johnson scored two goals to lead the US against Antigua and Barbuda:

In his first game back with the U.S. national team, Johnson scored twice Friday night, including the winning goal in second-half injury time, lifting the United States to the verge of advancing in World Cup qualifying with a nervous 2-1 victory over Antigua and Barbuda.

If the Americans draw with Guatemala on Tuesday night in Kansas City, Kan., they will move into the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The U.S. has 10 points and so does Guatemala after a 2-1 win over Jamaica.

Johnson connected on headers in the 20th minute and then in the dying moments in his first game for the U.S. team in two years. He was added to the squad by coach Jurgen Klinsmann, ostensibly replacing the disappointing Jozy Altidore, and the move paid off.

“It’s good to be back in the mix,” Johnson said. “Going into this game the coach has a ton of confidence in me to put me wide out on the wing.”

“We have a world class coach who played at the highest level. He knows the game.”

And the correct quotes after the game.

Johnson was something of a speculative pickup by the Sounders prior to the season. He’s now 5th in the league in scoring, ahead of even Fredy Montero (7th). Their production has contributed to the Sounders +17 goal differential, good for 2nd in MLS. The team is advancing to the playoffs.

Everything else aside, he’s a huge upgrade from Nate Jacqua and he’s been really fun to watch.

 

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That last link is an excellent read. Here’s something I didn’t know:  Of Johnson’s 14 goals, 9 have come off of headers.

5 comments to The Sounder’s Eddie Johnson Scores Two For The US

  • Blaidd Drwg

    The US was lucky to win that game. If they had not, it would have put them in serious jeopardy of not making the World Cup and it would have been the end of Kilnsmann’s reign over US Soccer. There is still a chance they could not qualify if they lost to Guatemala and Jamacia beats Antigua. That would be embarrassing for the US.

  • A.J. Coltrane

    Klinsmann’s only been the coach for 14 months. It’s way too early to talk about firing him. Keep in mind that US Soccer pursued him for quite a while before he actually agreed to coach the squad.

    Klinsmann is making a point to bring in younger players and change the emphasis from defense and static formations into more of an attacking mindset and more varied formations. It will be a process. It’s not dissimilar from a baseball GM job, it takes some time for the results of the process to surface.

    I would expect Klinsmann will be the head coach through at least 2014 regardless of what happens.

  • Blaidd Drwg

    The last time the US failed to qualify for the World Cup was 1986. I can guarantee you that if they fail to qualify for WC 2014, Klinsmann is gone, no matter what he might bring to the table long term. Not making the WC in 2014 would effectively kill US soccer on the international level. Frankly, there is no excuse for the US not qualifying in CONCACAF – There are 3 authomatic bids and really we should be better than any team in the region, except for maybe Mexico. If they get bounced this week, it is only the 3rd round of the amazingly convoluted CONCACAF WC qualifying, but still, it would be an embarrasment to go home that early.

  • A.J. Coltrane

    Grant Wahl today:

    When I asked Klinsmann on Monday how the U.S. had improved in the last year, he gave a long response that included introducing new players like Eddie Johnson, connecting promising Under-20 and Under-23 teams with the senior team (a process that he said was hindered by not qualifying for the Olympics) and increasing the chemistry on the senior team as he introduces a changed playing style. “That’s a process that will take time, but right now it’s all about getting things done,” he said. “It’s all about the game tomorrow against Guatemala, beating them, winning the group and advancing into a very busy 2013.”

    Fourteen months into Klinsmann’s tenure, this much remains true: In the big picture, his possible outcomes still range from runaway success to spectacular failure. If the U.S. gets to World Cup ’14 and goes on a deep run, Klinsmann’s $2.5 million salary will be worth every penny, and the current stretch will be viewed as growing pains necessary at a time when Klinsmann was trying to change the U.S. into a more proactive outfit.

    Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/writers/grant_wahl/10/15/usa-guatemala-preview/index.html#ixzz29OoLrgnf

  • A.J. Coltrane

    And another big game:

    The redemption narrative is so common in sports that it’s something we take for granted, a cliché. But every once in a while you’ll see a comeback story that transcends most of the others. We’re starting to get to that point with Eddie Johnson, the U.S. forward (or is it winger now?) who was the most dangerous player on the field in the U.S.’ 3-1 win against Guatemala on Tuesday that sent Jurgen Klinsmann’s team into the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for World Cup 2014.

    Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/writers/grant_wahl/10/17/united-states-guatemala-eddie-johnson/index.html#ixzz29YuC0SZA

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