by Matt - US Soccer Daily
Eddie Johnson was always on the fast track to national team success. The Bunnell, Florida native played with U-17 national team, scoring nearly a goal per game in 25 appearances. He then moved on to the U-20 national team, where he shined at the 2003 U-20 World Cup, scoring four goals and winning the Golden Shoe. Once he got his chance with the senior team, Johnson kept up the torrid pace he had set with the youth teams, scoring four goals in his first two caps. Needless to say, American fans were excited by the goal scoring prowess of the then 20 year old.
Johnson’s ability caught the eye of a number of European scouts, as well, and MLS fielded significant transfer offers from overseas suitors. After a series of rejected transfers and nixed deals, Eddie would finally make the move in January 2008, joining the American contingent at Fulham. Now, about two years later, Johnson has yet to make much of an impact in England, and the emergence of Charlie Davies and Jozy Altidore made him an afterthought in the minds of most American fans. But with Davies’ unfortunate injury, it might be time to bring Eddie back into camp. With Brian Ching, Conor Casey, and Kenny Cooper falling in behind Altidore in the pecking order, the US is lacking for speed up front, and Johnson could bring just that.
Johnson’s time on loan last season really helped him turn a corner. His game sense has improved, and he now has a high work rate that helped him become a fan favorite at Cardiff. Johnson played well this season in Fulham’s preseason tour of Australia, and he has frequently found the back of the net with the reserves (most recently scoring two goals in a match earlier this week). His style of play is not too unlike that of Charlie Davies, and an Altidore-Johnson partnership up front might wreak similar havoc for opposing backlines.
The major knock against bringing in Eddie is the fact that he’s only made three appearances this season. (In those appearances, Eddie has an assist and has created a couple of quality goal scoring opportunities.) Other speed options, like Robbie Findley and Jeff Cunningham, meanwhile, have played and scored regularly in MLS, so they might be more appealing options. But Cunningham, 33, has been somewhat of an enigma over his career and never really made a mark at the international level, failing to score in 10 caps. Findley, meanwhile, does not have any real international experience, something Johnson does have.
More than anything, the thought of bringing Eddie Johnson back into the national team is an intriguing one. He’s always had raw ability, but now with a high work rate an improved attitude, it might be Eddie’s time to shine. Bob Bradley should exercise all options in the coming months to try to fill the holes in his lineup, and I would not be surprised to see EJ called into camp. His early success might have been too much too soon, and a couple years of learning and maturing overseas could be the missing piece of the puzzle. If he can manage to earn some playing time and make an impact in friendlies over the next couple months, Eddie might just find himself back on the fast track to national team success.