Where was Eddie Johnson? As covered here on the blog a couple days ago, it was a popular question last week as the Sounders FC forward stayed in Seattle for the team’s road games in Trinidad and Dallas.
Coach Sigi Schmid explained the situation earlier this week when he said Johnson was rested on account of not having played a full season in a few years and to help him get over a slight adductor strain.
I asked Johnson the other day what he thought of being rested (Note: He was still training here with fitness coach Dave Tenney while the team was on the road).
“As a player? Frustrating,” he said, “because you want to play at the end of the day. I wasn’t with the team for preseason and I’ve been having these ongoing aches and little tweaks, and that’s normal not being with the team for preseason and not having a club for seven months. Sigi basically said it from Day 1: “There are going to be times where you’re probably going to be frustrated with me and don’t agree, but just trust in me and believe in what we’re trying to achieve here as a team. There might be days when you’re feeling good and we’re playing you too much and we might want to rest you for a couple games.’
“Granted, I’ve been one of the guys playing the most minutes as of late. And I’ve been kind of nursing a little tweak in my right adductor; I was kind of was feeling it before the Chivas USA game but I played and managed to get through 75 minutes. It was one of those things where the coach did what was best for the team and rested me. We’ve got a very important run of games in this last stretch before the playoffs. The team got two good results and I feel good. I’m looking forward to playing in the game this weekend.”
So was Johnson surprised at all the outside attention on his absence? There was quite a bit of speculation on social media — where Johnson is known for being active — regarding what his lack of involvement was all about.
“There are always going to be perceptions when it comes to me,” he said. “You can only control what you can control. … It doesn’t surprise me, but at the end of the day, those people are guessing. They’re doing what they do for a living, like to stir up things, like to make stories — that’s how they get attention. Me? I can only control being a Sounders player and giving my all week in and week out for the team.”
Johnson went on to reveal he’s been talking with some people in the industry and others within the team when it comes to the public perception and fans’ reception of professional athletes — and, more important, how to deal with it.
This was a subject covered in a story I wrote on Johnson earlier this year, when he referred to himself as misunderstood. Schmid and technical director Chris Henderson, who’s known EJ since his last stint in MLS, described the forward as emotional.
“I can never win,” Johnson said when it comes to some people. “If I don’t play or if I’m not scoring goals, it was, ‘I told you he couldn’t score goals.’ If I’m scoring goals, it was, ‘Oh, he’s a streaky forward.’ … Right now, I think I’m on pace to have the best season in my career. [Ed note: His 0.61 goals/90 minutes average is just short of his career high of 0.63 in 2007] I’ve got 11 goals in 22 games. That’s a goal every other game. I couldn’t ask for a better start.”