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October 8, 2012 at 8:48 PM

Eddie Johnson on his long-awaited call-up: “It feels good. It’s been a long road.”

johnson chivas.jpgPhoto credit: Jordan Stead, The Seattle Times

Reporters got some time with Sounders FC forward and recent U.S. national team call-up Eddie Johnson on the phone Monday afternoon. The 28 year old was en route to Miami to join training camp before a FIFA World Cup qualifier Friday in Antigua & Barbuda.

Here is the transcript:

* * *

(On being called into the national team…) “It feels good. It’s been a long road, a lot of hurdles I’ve had to overcome, a lot of adversity I’ve faced. The good feeling about all of this is I get to share it with the people that believed in me — Chris Henderson, Sigi (Schmid), Dave Tenney, and Adrian (Hanauer), who (brought) me to Seattle and gave me a second chance so I could get out there and show everyone that I can still play at a high level and that I can still be someone that plays a very important role in a big organization like the Seattle Sounders.”

(On if he ever doubted he would get another shot with the national team…) “I’d be lying if I said no. I think there’s always doubt at some time in your career when things aren’t going well. There are always perceptions of you that are out there from other people in the soccer world. I think the biggest thing going on in my corner is having a coach of German background. (laughs) … Sigi told me when I first arrived in Seattle that he had a very good relationship with (USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann) and if I was doing the business and I was believing in everything they were trying to accomplish in Seattle and the team was winning and I was scoring goals and my behavior (in public) was good and stuff that Jurgen would give me a chance. All that said, I just believe that hard work pays off. I’ve been working very hard in Seattle. I couldn’t ask for a better team to be playing with, a better group of players. My teammates, they push me week in and week out. Playing in front of 45,000 fans week in and week out, that pushed me to be better as a player and be a consistent player, because we know if you’re not doing well in Seattle, you’ll get abused. Yes, there was doubt, but I have a coach of German background who had a good relationship with Jurgen, and I know Sigi would be the first one to vouch for me — that I’ll come in and I work hard week in and week out. Right now, this is just a bonus. We’ve talked about how everyone asked me if getting called back to the national team was a goal of (mine), and yeah it is, but working hard and winning games in Seattle and trying to win MLS Cup, anything after that was just a bonus for me. I want to share it with my teammates — they push me week in and week out — and with my coaching staff for believing in me.”

(On if bouncing around with different teams in Europe discouraged him…) “A lot of the elderly guys that have retired, they always say I’m still young, but I’ve been playing professional soccer since I was 17, and at 28, you start to feel it. For me, these are your better years; these are when you become wiser as a player. I just wanted to use my experiences — good and bad — in Europe to help motivate me and push me to still be a consistent player and be able to play at the highest level coming back here in MLS, where the league has grown and changed so much in the four years since I left and came back. Bouncing around is frustrating, but it makes you mentally strong over there because you’re over there by yourself. It’s not like you have family close to you. You have to deal with real situations like a man and overcome that adversity. It’s not easy, but I played with a lot of big players like Danny Murphy, guys like Damien Duff. Those guys would come up to me at training sessions and tell me, ‘You’re a quality player, you still have it, just keep going, you’ll get a break.’ It’s great to hear from guys like that who have played with big teams like Liverpool and Chelsea. The good thing is I know it wasn’t a success for me going to the EPL, but I learned a lot as a player. I think it’s shown in my game now, the way I’ve played now versus how I’ve played over the years.”

(On maturing and growing up as a person…) “I think when you’re young, and in my case when you’re fortunate enough to earn a good living at a young age, it’s something you’re not used to dealing with and people in my family surely aren’t used to dealing with. When you’re earning money like that, you start living a certain lifestyle that’s really not you and where you come from growing up. It took me a while to grow up from that standpoint. I’m 28 years old now; I’m a lot more mature. I’m a student of the game and you can never stop learning the game. My biggest thing — and a sports psychologist told me, ‘Eddie, you’re your own enemy’ — is sometimes I think I put too much pressure on myself, and it shows in my game. I learned how to relax more and control what I can control and not let others’ emotions affect or dictate my play in the game. Yeah, I’ve grown up a lot. I’ve been doing some yoga, and visualization allows me to focus during a big game when there are a lot of emotions going on. I’m always looking for ways to add to my game to make me a better player and a more consistent player. I’ve done a lot of growing up and it shows.”

(On how Sigi Schmid helped him improve…) “Credit goes all to Sigi. When he sat me down when I first arrived, he said, ‘It’s all about trust — trusting in me, me trusting in you, and us all believing in our one goal as an organization, which is to win the MLS Cup.’ … In the past, I’d never really had a conversation with Sigi. I was always playing against him when he was managing other teams. I know that German mentality from just talking to players who have played for German coaches or played in the Bundesliga. I think Sigi is a more laid back German than (current) German coaches. A lot of the credit goes to him. As a player, it’s important whenever you’re playing for a manager who has a confidence in you, and Sigi showed confidence in me from Day 1, as well as Chris Henderson and Adrian. I just told him I wanted to pay him back for giving me a second chance. Credit to him, credit to Chris Henderson, who had a lot to do with it, as well as Dave Tenney. Those guys knew what I can do … from our time in Kansas City. I’m very fortunate that things are going well and I’m really looking forward to getting back with my team because I know we can do some good things come playoff time.”

(On if he will feel like ‘one of the guys’ or ‘the new guy’ with the national team…) “Naw, this is all new to me. … I’m looking forward to it because this roster has some unbelievable players and I can’t wait to get in and compete with these guys and push each other for the preparation for these two World Cup qualifiers. Yeah, I’m the new guy and this is all new to me.”


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