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April 19, 2012 at 4:04 PM

A stop and chat with Eddie Johnson

johnson mug 2012.jpgEddie Johnson made his first MLS start for the Sounders last week against Colorado, but the best is yet to come from the forward, according to coach Sigi Schmid. Johnson is still working on improving his fitness, timing and sharpness; Schmid expects that to come together in the middle of May and that’s when we’ll see the forward at his best.

And about that partnership up front with Fredy Montero?

“By the end of the year, I’m still convinced they’re going to be one of the most dangerous combinations in this league,” said Schmid.

Reporters got a chance to catch up with Johnson after Thursday’s practice and here is the transcript of that group interview:

* * *

(Were you training the past couple days with the team on a break?) “The plan was for everyone that had been playing regularly, week in and week out, (to have) three days off. But me getting myself back to 100 percent and working on my fitness … I think it was a good time where the coaching staff and the strengthening coach thought that this was a good time for me to push it for two days while we had the three days off. Monday and Tuesday I came in and did an extra bit of work on the field out here with Dave Tenney and in the gym. I’m slowly almost to 100 percent. I felt good physically and continue to keep working hard to try and make a contribution on the team.”

(So how is your fitness?) “I feel good. … We do a good job with the strengthening coach as far as reading the heart-rate monitors (to see) who’s working hard and who needs to work harder. I think I’m slowly not too far away.”

(How’d you feel about making your first start last weekend?) “It was good. I was like a kid in a candy store. From a fitness standpoint, I knew I couldn’t go 90 minutes, but physically I feel like I’m almost 100 percent. To get out there and work hard and just try to cause trouble for their back four, as far as my return coming back and my hip flexor holding up, I thought it was a good 65 minutes. I wasn’t sore afterwards or two days or three days afterward — that’s a sign of progress for me going forward. I thought it was an overall good performance by the team. … The coach made a note this morning where it’s us and D.C. (that have played 19 different starters this season). That says a lot about our team, the character of our team and the depth of the team. It was a good three points all around by the team.”

(What on the field has changed in MLS?) “I think the league’s gotten a lot better. I left in January of 2008, and I think technically the league’s getting better, the pace is getting better, I think there’s a lot more and better young players coming through, and with the talent coming from overseas, the combination of those two has made the league a really fun league. I tell all the boys back in Europe about the league and the fan support you get here in Seattle. I can say that’s the biggest difference from when I was (in MLS the first time) until now — playing in front of 38,000 fans week in and week out. It doesn’t feel like I left Europe. These guys are some of the most passionate fans, if not the most passionate fans, that I’ve ever played in front of week in and week out.”

(So are you recruiting?) “Not recruiting. Just being honest. The league’s gotten a lot better. Like I said, a lot more players coming from abroad and this league has helped develop younger players that are coming up. It’s only good for the national team in the future.”

(How’s your chemistry developing with Montero and David Estrada?) “My biggest thing when I was injured was just to sit back and watch those guys and how they play and what runs they make and try to add my game to the way they play. It’s a learning process. I think it was good to get out there and play alongside Fredy. He’s a great young player and has a lot of talent. He’s proven in this league what type of player he is. And David started the season off on a good note. When you have a player like Montero, who defenders have to watch out for, and a guy like David, who is making a name for himself this year, it makes my job sometimes a lot easier and it takes a lot of pressure off of me. Like I said, it’s a learning process, but it’s only a matter of time until everything starts gelling. But the team is off to a good start, 3-1-1, you can’t ask for a better start.”

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