Eddie Johnson has taken MLS by surprise, much like Lovel Palmer took him by surprise back in June.
In the 89th minute Saturday, Seattle Sounders striker Eddie Johnson streaked down the field and found space behind Rauwshan McKenzie before connecting with a bending cross from Freddy Montero, scoring the game winner against Chivas USA.
It was his second goal of the game and his second brace in a season in which he has scored 13 goals. (You can vote against it becoming the next Goal of the Week here.)
Thirteen goals is good enough for fourth place in MLS. Among forwards who have played at least 1200 minutes this year (roughly 45 minutes per team game), Johnson's 0.68 goals per 90 minutes is second only to Chris Wondolowski, and only Kenny Cooper beats his 21.0% scoring chance percentage.
At six feet, Eddie Johnson provides a much needed target for the many, many crosses that come from Seattle's wings, and indeed 9 of his 13 goals have been scored with his head. He has the speed, too, to get into the right spaces and push the limits of opponents' offside traps (although only two MLS players have been caught offside more than he has).
And, of particular interest this week, Johnson has scored in every Cascadia match the Sounders have played this year.
Back in February, it was far from clear that the Sounders' decision to trade Mike Fucito and Lamar Neagle to the Montreal Impact would reap such benefits. The deal created quite a stir in Seattle, while, in the words of Stumptown Footy community member vitaminx, the rest of Cascadia laughed.
We weren't wrong to doubt him. After a strong MLS career in which he scored 41 goals in seven years, as well as 12 goals in 42 appearances for the US National team, Johnson spent three and a half years disappointing several European clubs, from Fulham FC all the way to Aris Thessaloniki.
His life reportedly in shambles and having just been rejected by Mexican club Puebla, he returned to MLS with his tail between his legs and signed a contract for a tiny fraction of what his previous MLS club had paid him.
To Timbers fans that life story sounded just a little too much like Kenny Cooper's. A tall, lanky American forward with ball skills not quite bad enough to dissuade him from dribbling everywhere, who had succeeded immensely in an earlier, lower quality version of MLS before crashing in Europe, was making his MLS return. In the rare cases he managed to stay on his feet, we surmised, he'd be hanging out on the wing or dribbling himself out of scoring opportunities.
But from the professional perspective of many MLS clubs (including, according to sources, the Portland Timbers), Eddie Johnson's potential upside was well worth the risk. It was a gamble, no question, but certainly worth the lean price tag of just over $100,000 per year.
Seven months in, it appears that the Sounders' front office was right to roll the dice on him. While Portland is certainly happy to have Mike Fucito, and Lamar Neagle continues to develop in Montreal, it would be hard to argue that Johnson hasn't won this round.
Which brings me to my question for y'all: knowing what we know now, should the Timbers have given up potentially more than Seattle did to bring Johnson to Portland?
Do you think the Timbers should have tried to make a deal for Eddie Johnson?
Yes, he is the kind of striker the Timbers have needed and, bonus, the Sounders wouldn't have him. (49 votes)
No, his success with the Sounders this year has no bearing on his potential success with the Timbers. (77 votes)
There has been and shall always be one Eddie Johnson to wear a Timbers kit. (13 votes)
I stopped reading this article after seeing the words, "Seattle Sounders." What was the question? (13 votes)
152 total votes