Here’s some of what Sounders forward Eddie Johnson had to say in a conference call this afternoon, while at the airport on his way to join the U.S. national team in Miami.
“It feels good,” he said to the obvious question. “It’s been a long road, a lot of hurdles I had to overcome, a lot of adversity I had to face. The good feeling about all of this is I get to share it with the people that believed in me: Chris Henderson, Sigi, Dave Tenney and Adrian, them acquiring me for Seattle, give me a second chance so I can get out there and show everyone that I can have success at a high level and I can still be someone who plays an important role in a big organization like the Seattle Sounders.”
Earlier in the day, Klinsmann had credited Sounders coach Sigi Schmid for helping get Johnson’s career back on track.
“I’ve spoken many many times over the last couple of months with Sigi, and I think Sigi has done a tremendous job with him,” Klinsmann said. “I think Eddie is back in that position because he worked very, very hard for it. If you watch his games and his drive, his hunger that he has, the way he chases defenders and the way he creates for himself and his striking partner chances, the way he also finishes things off, that speaks for him. And he’s not a newcomer. He was part of the program over the last, whatever, 10 years or so. He had difficult times: He went through that, he struggled in Europe, and Sigi found a way to get him back on track, and it’s exciting to see. We already played with that thought for the last camp. I think this camp opened the door for him. Now we are curious to see him in the middle of his old buddies. I think he really deserves that call.”
Johnson said he agrees with that:
“For sure. Credit goes all to Sigi. When he sat me down when I first arrived he said it’s all about trust: You trusting in me, me trusting in you, and us all believing in our one goal as an organization: to win MLS Cup. … As a player it’s important whenever you’re playing for a manager that has confidence in you, and Sigi had confidence in me from Day One, as well as Chris Henderson and Adrian (Hanauer). I told him I just want to pay him back for giving me a second chance.”
Here’s the rest of what Johnson had to say:
On if he ever doubted he would get another shot with the National Team…) “I’d be lying if I said no. I think there’s always doubt at some time in your career when things aren’t going well…I think the biggest thing going on in my corner is having a coach of German background [laughs]…Sigi told me when I first arrived in Seattle that he had a good relationship with Jurgen and if I was doing my business and I was believing in everything they were trying to accomplish in Seattle and the team was winning and I was scoring goals and my behavior was good and stuff that Jurgen would give me a chance. All that said, I just believe that hard work pays off. I’ve been working very hard in Seattle. I couldn’t ask for a better team to be playing with, a better group of players. My teammates, they push me week in and week out. Playing in front of 45,000 fans week in and week out, that pushed me to be better as a player and be a consistent player because we know if you’re not doing well in Seattle you’ll get abused. Yes, there was doubt but I have a coach of German background…and he’d be the first one to vouch for me that I come in and I work hard week in and week out. Right now, this is just a bonus. We talked about, everyone asked me if getting called back to the National Team was a goal of yours, and yeah it is. Working hard and winning games in Seattle and trying to win MLS Cup, anything after that I was just a bonus for me. I want to share it with my teammates-they push me week in and week out-and my coaching staff for believing in me.”
(On if bouncing around with different teams in Europe discouraged him…) “A lot of the elderly guys that have retired, they always say I’m still young, but I’ve been playing professional soccer since I was 17. And at 28, you start to feel it. For me, these are your better years, these are when you become wiser as a player, and I just wanted to use my experiences-good and bad-in Europe to help motivate me and push me to still be a consistent player and be able to play at the highest level coming back here in MLS where the league has grown and changed so much in the four years I left and came back. Bouncing around is frustrating, but it makes you mentally strong over there because you’re over there by yourself. It’s not like you have family close to you. You have to deal with real situations like a man and overcome that adversity. It’s not easy, but I played with a lot of big players like Danny Murphy, guys like Damien Duff. Those guys would come up to me at training sessions and tell me, ‘You’re a quality player, you still have it, just keep going, you’ll get a break.’ It’s great to hear from guys like that who have played with big teams like Liverpool and Chelsea. The good thing is, I know it wasn’t a success for me going to the EPL, but I learned a lot as a player. I think it’s shown in my game now, the way I’ve played now versus how I’ve played over the years.”
(On maturing and growing up as a person…) “I think when you’re young, and in my case when you’re fortunate enough to earn a good living at a young age, it’s something you’re not used to dealing with and people in my family surely aren’t used to dealing with. When you’re earning money like that, you start living a certain lifestyle that’s really not you and where you come from growing up. It took me a while to grow up from that standpoint. I’m 28 years old now, I’m a lot more mature. I’m a student of the game and you can never stop learning the game. My biggest thing, and a sports psychologist told me, ‘Eddie, you’re your own enemy.’ Sometimes I think I put too much pressure on myself and it shows in my game. I learned how to relax more and control what I can control and not let others’ emotions affect or dictate my play in the game…I’m always finding ways and looking for ways to add to my game to make me a better player and a more consistent player. I’ve done a lot of growing up and it shows.”
(On if he will feel like “one of the guys” or “the new guy” with the National Team…) “This is all new to me…I’m looking forward to it because this roster has some unbelievable players and I can’t wait to get in and compete with these guys and push each other for the preparation for these two World Cup qualifiers. Yeah, I’m the new guy and this is all new to me.”