“Now that I finally have a club, I can finally tell the truth to everyone wondering what happened.
Long story short…”
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That’s how new Sounders FC forward Eddie Johnson started a near 500-word answer when asked on his introductory conference call about what happened in his recent attempt to sign with Puebla FC of the Mexican Primera Division.
The reports in January, based on comments from Puebla officials, said that Johnson had failed a physical, but he offered his own explanation Friday (Ed note: You might remember Mauro Rosales was said to have failed a physical when his deal with Queretaro fell through, which he denied).
Johnson was dying to set the record straight when the report first came out — the reputation of being unfit could have been very damaging to an out-of-work 27 year old — but he felt that his words would carry no weight as long as he was unemployed.
Roughly a month and a half later, he was acquired by Seattle. And about an hour after Friday’s official announcement, Johnson was ready and eager to clear the air.
It all started with a good friend, DaMarcus Beasley, a U.S. national who was playing for Puebla. Johnson was then without a club and training at the IMG Academy in Florida last year (Ed note: I haven’t heard a specific timeline, but I’m guessing this is maybe around mid-December).
Beasley asked if Johnson had any interest in joining him down in Mexico and Johnson wavered at first, according to what he said in a radio interview with 950 KJR-AM. Johnson, who dealt with some unpaid wages while playing in Greece, needed a little convincing and Beasley provided it. Wages were paid on time, he said; the city was nice, he assured.
Johnson eventually agreed but didn’t have an agent, so he worked out a deal through a someone Beasley knew. Johnson said his name of that representative was Luis Garcia (Ed note: the spelling might be different).
The contract arrived and it met Johnson’s liking. He had the folks at IMG take a look at the legal details, then he signed and flew off to Puebla thinking the deal was on its way to completion.
Sounds simple enough, but it wasn’t.
“There were a lots of events going on under the table that I didn’t know anything about, that I wasn’t told,” Johnson said, indicating some poor communication with Garcia.
Johnson trained with the team four times over three days at the end of December. Puebla was in preseason at the time and, according to Johnson, coach Juan Carlos Osorio (formerly of the Chicago Fire and New York Red Bulls) and the team seemed happy with him.
The owner wasn’t in town for those three days to finalize the signing, but Johnson was assured it would get done.
The team got a couple days off for New Year’s and Johnson returned to Florida.
Jan. 2 came and he was ready to head back to Puebla, but at the airport he got a call from Beasley, Johnson told KJR. Beasley had already arrived in Mexico and saw reports in the newspaper that the deal had been called off.
So Johnson called Garcia to ask what had happened. Unsure of his future, Johnson didn’t want to fly down without any guarantees.
Garcia confirmed the deal wasn’t going to go through.
So what happened?
Johnson said it was due to a difference of opinion within the Puebla technical staff, where the technical director wanted to sign a Mexican forward and Osorio wanted Johnson. The dispute was great enough to kill the deal. That’s when, according to Johnson, team officials fabricated that he was out of shape to explain why the signing fell through.
“The club said I didn’t pass my physical; I never took a physical,” said Johnson. “Then they said that I was unfit, but I trained in every training session and I did well, and the coach was happy with the way I trained.
“In the end, you live and you learn. It was a learning experience for me. Where I was in my career at the time, trying to get my career back on track, it didn’t look good for me. But that’s the truth in a nutshell. … Those people out there that know the truth, know the truth.”
Ultimately, Johnson laments not having his own agent at the time and said he never should’ve trained without a finalized deal in place. Despite the drama, Johnson told KJR he “couldn’t be happier right now”. He’s looking forward to being in an environment where he can develop under coach Sigi Schmid and play in front of 40,000 soccer-crazed fans every week in Seattle.
“I’m glad everyone knows the truth of the story because it’s been bothering me for a while and at a time in my career where I had been dealing with a lot of things,” he told Mike Gastineau and Elise Woodward. “I had a lot of uncertainty where I’d be playing and I’ve been desperate to get on the field.”
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Crazy story huh? What do you think?