By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
The Seattle Sounders’ on-field problems were joined by some off-field concerns Wednesday.
Coach Sigi Schmid kept leading goal-scorer Eddie Johnson off the practice pitch for undisclosed reasons unrelated to health. After training, Schmid added that injury-plagued midfielder Steve Zakuani may be done for the season.
There were few details about Johnson’s situation. However, he was seen angrily leaving Sounders training on Tuesday, complaining about passes from midfielders. When he was absent Wednesday, Schmid was asked why.
“Eddie’s absence today at training was basically my decision,” Schmid said.
Johnson was not available for comment. However, these quotes were posted on his Instagram page over Tuesday and Wednesday: “I believe in the brotherhood of man, all men, but I don’t believe in brotherhood with anybody who doesn’t want brotherhood with me;” “So early in my life, I had learned that if you want something, you had better make some noise;” “To me, the thing that is worse than death is betrayal,” and “Don’t let your loyalty become slavery. If they don’t appreciate what you bring to the table ? let them eat alone.”
Johnson leads the Sounders with nine goals and 27 shots on goal, and he is second with 50 shots. He has two assists.
He was involved in another controversy Aug. 31, when he celebrated a goal at Columbus by rubbing his fingers together and mouthing the words, “Pay me.” Afterward, Schmid and general manager Adrian Hanauer agreed Johnson deserves an increase in his $150,000 salary.
“Sometimes when you work hard in life, sometimes you just want to be rewarded,” Johnson said at the time. “But at the same time, you’ve go to be patient.”
Johnson hasn’t played for Seattle since Oct. 5 due to national team duty and a sports hernia.
Schmid said he does not expect the latest incident to become a distraction as his team completes its regular season this weekend and heads into the MLS Cup playoffs next week.
“It’s not an issue at all because we’re focused as a team to do well and to be successful,” Schmid said. “He’s been a big part of our team. It’s some things that we’ll work through.”
Although certain of a playoff spot, the Sounders are dealing with a four-game losing streak and a six-game winless streak as they head into their regular season finale Sunday, when the Los Angeles Galaxy visits CenturyLink Field.
Under those circumstances, midfielder Brad Evans implied some emotional training sessions are to be expected.
“Obviously, it’s going to be chippy, it’s going to be a little bit more intense because they want better for themselves, they want better to their teammates and sometimes come off as yelling and screaming like you heard today,” he said Wednesday. “But at the end of the day it’s because we want to be better. It’s all about keeping a level head, so the ups can’t be too up and the downs can’t be too down. The intensity was good today. I thought the focus was good.”
Schmid said the health of his team is improving, with one exception. “Steve Zakuani hasn’t really trained since the Portland game, saying (his hip) injury is just such that he doesn’t feel he’s going to be able to come back this season,” Schmid said. “But we’re sitting down (Wednesday afternoon); we’re going to be able to talk about it in detail.” Schmid also said Obafemi Martins (groin) trained until he felt pain, Djimi Traore (knee) was full-in, and that Shalrie Joseph (knee) has been ruled out for Sunday, but could return if the club makes an extended run in the postseason. … The Sounders are off today. They will return to training Friday with a morning session at CenturyLink Field. … Playoff tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday. Information is available at SoundersFC.com.