FRISCO – It seems almost a generation ago that 28-year-old Eddie Johnson pulled on the red and white hoops of FC Dallas.
Johnson was drafted by Dallas way back in the second round of the 2001 MLS SuperDraft as a precocious youngster with raw abilities that developed into a 20-year-old startlet who finished the 2004 MLS campaign with the then Dallas Burn tied at the top of the MLS scoring charts with 12 goals.
Soccer is a funny game though and no one could have predicted the career track for EJ that brings him face-to-face with FC Dallas on Sunday night (8 p.m. CT on ESPN) as the hottest forward in U.S. Soccer.
“Eddie’s always been the player that we always looked at as the next big star,” said Schellas Hyndman, just an observer of FC Dallas back when Johnson played for them. “He went to Europe and it didn’t work out the way he wanted it to work out and it de-railed his path. They’ve done a really good job with him in Seattle giving him a breath of fresh air and also mental focus getting him to the point where he’s back on track.”
Indeed, Johnson’s career, once so bright with FC Dallas, almost became an afterthought among U.S. Soccer fans just a year ago. Now on a Sounders squad loaded with offensive talent, stopping Johnson is quickly becoming priority No. 1 for an FC Dallas team that must get a result on Sunday night to have any hope of keeping their playoff hopes alive. The Sounders have won six straight games in which Johnson has found the back of the net.
“[Johnson] makes great runs into the box,” said defender Zach Loyd. “I think this year he’s had nine goals with his head so I think that just shows when the ball is on the flanks, he knows where to be…I think the biggest thing for us to stop him is communication…to know where he is and put a body on him.”
Head coach Schellas Hyndman knows, however, that the key to limiting EJ’s impact on the game is denying the service that the dynamic forward thrives on.
“He’s a complete handful and how do you stop him?” Hyndman said. “You’ve just got to be completely aware of what’s going on. If you can stop the services that go into him, it’ll be a lot easier on our defense.”