Eddie Johnson got his first Sounders start last week in the 1-0 win against Colorado, and he’s spending extra time on his fitness during this bye week before Seattle returns to action April 28 at Chicago.
We spoke to him today about his health and increasing role with the team, and with coach Sigi Schmid about the apparent forward logjam between Johnson, Fredy Montero and David Estrada.
On working two days while his teammates were off this week) The plan was for everyone who was playing regularly, week in and week out, to have three days off. But me getting myself back to 100 percent and working on my fitness as the league is going on, I think it was a good time where the coaching staff and the strengthening staff thought that this was a good time for me to push it for two days while we had the three days off. Monday and Tuesday I came in and did an extra bit of work on the field. I’m slowly almost to 100 percent. I felt good physically and continue working hard to make a contribution on the team.
On his start against Colorado: It was good. I was like a kid in a candy store. I knew from a fitness standpoint I couldn’t go 90 minutes, but physically I feel like I’m almost 100 percent. To get out there and work hard and just try to cause trouble for their back four, I thought as far as my return coming back and my hip flexor standing up, I thought it was a good 65 minutes where I wasn’t sore afterwards or two days of three days afterward. That’s progress with me going forward. I thought it was an overall good performance by the team. We knew they were going to be a team that possesses the ball a lot, but I thought with their possession they didn’t hurt us at all. … It was a good three points all around by the team.
On what’s new in his second time in MLS: The league’s gotten a lot better. I left in January of 2008. Technically the league’s getting better, the pace is getting better, I think there’s a lot more better young players coming through. And with the talent coming from overseas, the combination of those two has made the league a really fun league. I tell all the boys back in Europe about the league. And the fans support you get here in Seattle, I can say that’s the biggest difference from when I was here (the first time) until now. Playing in front of 38,000 fans week in and week out, it doesn’t feel like I left Europe. These guys are some of the most passionate fans, if not the most passionate fans, that I’ve ever played in front of week in and week out.
On chemistry with Montero and Estrada: My biggest thing is when I was injured just to sit back and watch those guys and how they play and what runs they make and try to add my game to the way they play. It’s a learning process. I think it was good to get out there and play alongside Fredy. He’s a great young player, a lot of talent. He’s proven in this league what type of player he is. And David started off the season on a good note. When you have a player like Montero, who defenders have to look out for; and a guy like David, who is making a name for himself this year, it makes my job sometimes a lot easier and it takes a lot of pressure off of me. It’s a learning process, but it’s only a matter of time until everything starts gelling. But the team is off to a good start: 3-1-1, you can’t ask for a better start.
On Johnson: His fitness is coming along. We’re pleased with that. It’s just a matter of timing. I think when somebody comes back from a layoff or not having played, you’re always sharp and then the timing just seems off, everything seems off for about two, three, four weeks and then you get back into your rhythm again. For him now it’s just a matter of getting the timing. That he’s able to train every day is good: That helps his timing. And I think the best Eddie Johnson that we’re going to see is probably going to be the middle of May, second week of May is probably when we’ll see Eddie at his best. But as long as he continues to be able to train, his fitness is coming and I think his timing and his game intuitions and fitness will come at that point.
On the chemistry between Johnson and Montero: It’s developing. It’s going to take a little bit of time. As I said, Eddie’s not sharp right now. Fredy’s probably pressing a little bit: Goal-scorers, when they don’t score, they start to press a little bit. But I talked to Fredy today. He knows what my thoughts are. He’ll be fine and Eddie will be fine. I think by the end of the year, I’m still convinced that theyr’e going to be one of the most dangerous combinations in this league.
On whether Montero, Johnson and Estrada can all remain in the first as they were against Colorado: It all depends. What I always find is whenever you start looking into that crystal ball and start looking ahead, something starts to change, and you have to look at it again. For me to come here and say, ‘Well, I’m looking at it this way,” and a player reads it, and then three days later somebody gets hurt and now you’re going to that guy and saying, ‘Oh,by the way, I need oyu back in here.’ So for me we’ll take it as it comes, and when it gets to the point that we’re playing that came we’ll see who’s healthy and see what’s the best selection to play. …. It’s possible Rosales is back but Flaco isn’t back at that stage, so maybe it becomes Rosales and Estrada on the wings. Maybe Estrada plays on the left, I don’t know. We have to see.
On how the trio did against the Rapids: I thought they did all right. I thought we had some chances. … I was pleased with us defensively and in our zone defending. I thought we created chances and we just didn’t put them away, especially in the last 10-15 minutes of the game when Ochoa came in. Ochoa had some chances fall to his feet. If Eddie would have been in at that point, then I’m sure the chances would have fallen to him as well. We just have to continue to plug away at that, and I’m sure it will happen.