By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
Sounders FC forward Eddie Johnson has been called back into training with the United States national team after a two-year absence.
On Monday, U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann included Johnson on the 24-man roster for the final two matches in the semifinal round of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
“I’ve spoken many, many times over the last couple of months with (Sounders coach Sigi Schmid), and I think Sigi has done a tremendous job with him,” Klinsmann said in a conference call. “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.”
Johnson, 28, first appeared with the national team in 2004, and he played for the 2006 World Cup team. He has scored eight goals in World Cup qualifying.
His last appearance was in 2010, and he admitted Monday there were times when he feared he might never make it back.
“I’d be lying if I said no,” Johnson said by phone from the airport on his way to join the team in Miami. “I think there’s always doubt at some time in your career when things aren’t going well. … 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.”
The USA will play at Antigua &Barbuda on Friday and then host Guatemala on Oct. 16 at Kansas City, Kan.
“We expect two difficult games where the opponent will probably play more defensively, so we really need to be strong in the air,” Klinsmann said. “That’s why we brought in Eddie and Alan (Gordon): two guys who are good in the air and can lay balls off.”
Two other Sounders also have departed for duty with their national teams: defender Adam Johansson (Sweden) and midfielder Mario Martinez (Honduras)
Schmid indicated Johnson and Martinez could make it back in time for the Sounders’ next MLS match: Oct. 17, when Real Salt Lake visits CenturyLink Field.