“Where’s Mario?” joked Eddie Johnson right before his first meeting with Seattle media after Friday’s practice.
The Sounders FC forward returned from U.S. men’s national team duty recently — after a loss to club teammate Mario Martinez and Honduras in World Cup qualifying — and spoke with reporters about a number of topics.
Here is the transcript (and to answer the question, Martinez is expected back Saturday):
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(What’d you think of your time with the national team?) “It was good. I think it was good for me and Brad to get a head start to a very important year this year. We’re looking forward to doing good things here in Seattle. It says a lot about how our season went last year to be involved with the national team. Anytime you get called to play for your country it’s a privilege and it’s an honor. I thought it was good for me and Brad, being two guys here that are important to the club to go get that experience and take that experience back from there and bring it here to Seattle here with the Sounders.”
(What was it like being that game in Honduras? Did it feel like a lot of pressure?) “I think good pressure, because at the end of the day, those are the environments we want to play in. Being an American soccer player, playing in front of big crowds, playing for your country in a very important game, but the conditions were challenging. It was very hot. You got some MLS-based players like myself who are in our preseason right now. You’ve got European players that only had 48 or 72 hours to prepare for a game after flying overseas. But those aren’t excuses. We had enough experience within the team to go down there and get a result, but at the end of the day, the better team won. They played really well. They’re used to playing in those conditions and they’ve got a great team. You can’t take anything away from them. Onwards and forwards, and we’re looking forward to our next game.”
(How will that help you kick off preseason?) “I’ve been dying to get back, to get with the guys. We’ve got some good draft picks. It’s going to be a very exciting here. And preseasons are important to form that chemistry on the field, get the understanding of the players you’re going to be playing with, and just trying to get on the same page. It’s important. I wasn’t with the team that much during the last preseason. I had little nicks and strains, but now I’m fully healthy and looking forward to getting out there with the guys, and looking forward to going to Arizona and playing in some of the games.”
(Is there anyone new you’re looking forward to playing with?) “I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about our No. 1 draft pick. There are some guys in camp who know him pretty well and they’ve had a lot of good things to say about him. He can play up top or he can play in the back. But having a player like that, who’s a winner at the end of the day, I kind of want to take him under my wing and push him. … I’m looking forward to playing with everyone. I like it here in Seattle. We had a very good year last year. We were really close. Getting that close and not accomplishing what we wanted to accomplish, now we know this time around that a healthier team throughout the whole season and doing the little things right are important to get us to where we want to be, and that’s in the MLS Cup final this year.”
(What do you think of Shalrie Joseph being here?) “It was a surprise when I pulled up to training. I talked to him like a month ago when we were in L.A. with the national team; he was down there working out. But it’s good. If I was the coach, I’d take him. We all know what he can do. We all know the effect that he’s had in this league. He’s a very good player, a very experienced player and so I wouldn’t mind having him here.”
(What do you make of Fredy Montero being gone this year?) “You know it’s kind frustrating for me, because I was looking forward to playing with him and establishing a better relationship on the field than we had last season. But at the end of the day, we’re all professionals. We all have to do what’s best for ourselves. He’s been here for four years, and I think he’s at a point in his career where he wants to challenge himself elsewhere. I know playing in the World Cup definitely has to be on his radar and something that he wants to accomplish in his career. From my understanding, I heard for him going back to Colombia and playing in the league in Colombia was going to better (his standing) for getting international call-ups. He’s an unbelievable player. We all know what he can do, we all know what he’s meant to this club, and I was shocked when I heard the news because I thought when we did play some games together and we gelled, we were untouchable. But all the best for him. I know he’ll do well and I know he’s going to have a fantastic career.”
(Any thoughts on them bringing Lamar Neagle back, who was one of the pieces traded away to get you here?) “Yeah, this city can’t give me crap anymore. (laughs) So I was definitely happy seeing him back and take some of that pressure off me now. … We spoke after the trade happened last year. He’s a great young guy. We saw what he can do. You guys know what he can do. I saw what he did against us when we played in Montreal, scored a fantastic goal. Great (acquisition) by the organization in getting him back. I know the fans are happy to have him back. And Lamar, I know he’s happy to be back here in his hometown and playing in front of his family and friends. Like I said, a great (acquisition) and I know he’s going to do well. He’s going to do really well for us this year.”
NOTE: Afterward, Johnson joked that his good friend Clint Dempsey scored his goal in the Honduras game. Johnson claimed he made eye contact with Jermaine Jones on a chip pass that resulted in Dempsey scoring on a volley (Johnson was right beside him).