By John Boyle
It hardly comes as a surprise seeing as he leaked the news himself on Friday, then didn’t do a great job denying it Sunday, but Sounders forward Eddie Johnson is now officially on the U.S. national team roster for upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Antigua &Barbuda and Guatemala, US Soccer announced Monday.
Next week’s game against Guatemala is a day before a crucial league game for Seattle against Salt Lake, a team Sounders FC is trying to pass in the Western Conference standings to improve playoff seeding. Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid told reporters at Saturday’s practice that while he couldn’t comment on Johnson’s situation, if one of his players were hypothetically to be called up by the U.S., that wouldn’t necessarily rule him out for next week’s game. Now obviously if Johnson were to play a full 90 minutes or anything close to that against Guatemala, he wouldn’t be able to play a day later, but if he is on the bench for that game or plays as a late sub, it is possible he could play against Salt Lake. Also worth noting, Salt Lake has two players who were called up: goalkeeper Nick Rimando and midfielder Kyle Beckerman.
For Johnson, 28, this call-up is a big moment in what has been a career-reviving season. He was first on the national team in 2004 and was a fairly regular member of that team until 2010, including a spot on the 2006 World Cup team. But after going to Europe and failing to find success in several leagues, many had written Johnson off by the time he returned to MLS this season. With Seattle, he has scored a club-record 14 goals and now made it back to the national team.
“A very very emotional day for me have been through a lot,” Johnson wrote on Twitter.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said on a conference call that he has had several conversations with Sounders coach Sigi Schmid about Johnson, and that his play this season earned Johnson another shot at the national-team level.
“I spoke many, many times over the last couple of months with Sigi, and I think Sigi’s done a tremendous job with him,” Klinsmann said. “Eddie is back in that position because he’s worked very, very hard for it.”
“He had difficult times, he went through that, he had struggled in Europe, and Sigi found a way to get him back on track, and it’s exciting to see. … I think he really deserved the call.”
Asked if he had and issues with Johnson leaking the news on Twitter a few days earlier, Klinsmann said, “We’ll have a talk about that.” He then laughed and quickly added, “No, I’m just kidding. No worries at all.”
In addition to Johnson, Sounders FC defender Adam Johansson (Sweden) and midfielder Mario Martinez (Honduras) also were called in by their national teams for upcoming 2014 World Cup Qualifiers.
Here’s the full US roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3) : Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (8) : Carlos Bocanegra (Racing Santander), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Maurice Edu (Stoke City), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaelland)
MIDFIELDERS (8) : Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Roma), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (5): Clint Dempsey (Tottenham Hotspur), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Herculez Gomez (Santos), Alan Gordon (San Jose Earthquakes), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders)