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March 28, 2013 at 3:54 PM

Q&A: Eddie Johnson on his USMNT stint, an 0-2-1 start and playing with Obafemi Martins

johnson mug 2013Reporters got a chance to catch up with Eddie Johnson after Thursday’s practice. The Sounders FC forward just recently returned from an exciting week with the U.S. men’s national team. Here is a full transcript of the interview:

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(Which USMNT game was more memorable, a win in a Colorado blizzard or a tie at Azteca Stadium?) “I’d say both. Both were bittersweet. The snow… I prefer the snow (over) the rain, I’ll tell you that much. It was a difficult condition, but an enjoyable one at the same time. We were able to get a good result at home in front of our fans. In Azteca, it’s never easy playing there with the altitude and playing a good team like Mexico. I thought from a tactical standpoint, defensively we were all really on the same page, and it was difficult for them to break us down. We went in with a game plan and it worked. So two good results — four points in two games — we couldn’t ask for anything more.”

(Were the players OK with playing in the snow?) “The home games, we usually try and put them in places where the home team gets a bit of an advantage. But I don’t think it was an advantage for anyone. We’re not used to playing in snow. Neither are they. Did we expect it to be a blizzard? No. … The game went on and it was two good teams battling and trying to get a good result — and they had their chances. But at the end of the day we were able to walk away with three points, and we’re delighted.”

(You hear some negative stories upon going to Mexico, did you experience anything like that?) “No, I think there’s a new generation with this new Mexican team. They’re very professional. I think everyone in that organization (gives) us a lot more respect than back in the day. We actually talked after the game, some of the guys, about when there was a foul how quick they were to help us up, or vice versa. From a professional standpoint, it was good. It was two good teams in CONCACAF going at it and, like I said, we were able to get out with a point, and we’re delighted.”

(What are you looking forward to in your return to the Sounders?) “It’s good to be back with the team. I’ve been away for about a week and a half, and you want to be there and play with your team at the end of the day. I don’t think we’re going through a tough spell. I think it’s a challenging spell — trying to think of something positive — because I think we’ve got a very special group, and it’s just going to take time for us to gel. But I’m glad to be back. I watched the highlights, and it’s not easy going down and playing San Jose away. It was a great goal by Chris Wondolowski. In three games we’ve given up three goals, so I’m not too worried. I think from a defensive standpoint we’ve been spot-on this season, with the young guy Yedlin coming in on the right, and Traore and Hurtado, and Leo and Burch on the left-hand side. I think we’ve been very solid in the back. But I think it’s up to us strikers now. We’ve got a healthy four guys who have been rotating these last three games, and I think it’s just going to take time for the goals to start coming. The good thing is we’re getting chances. I always say that. For a forward, it’s important that you’re getting chances, because we know how it is if you’re not getting chances. It plays with your confidence. So the good thing is we’re getting chances, and it’s just a matter of time before they go in.”

(How is the partnership developing with Obafemi Martins?) “It’s good. We all know he’s played at Inter Milan, he’s played at Newcastle, he’s played in Russia, and he’s played in Spain and Germany, as well — all of the big leagues in the world. He brings a ton of experience. One of my things today was as quickly as we can and in as short a time span is trying to connect — getting an understanding today with him and where he likes to move and trying to complement his movement on the field. I thought in the possession game that we played, we had a 10v10 possession, I thought we moved off each other really well. I thought we combined with each other really well. I’m excited. I know the team, the organization and the fans are excited that he’s here. I think he was a great addition to the team. I’m looking forward to playing with him, and I’m pretty sure David Estrada and Sammy Ochoa would say the same.”

(What’s his personality like and how is he fitting in?) “He’s funny. He’s humble. I feel like a lot of guys through football that I’ve met from African countries, they’re very humble, very religious, down-to-earth, and someone who gets along with everyone. No ego at all. Those are the types of guys that we try to bring here to this organization. I’m happy to be a part of this organization, and I’m pretty sure he can say the same. I see him tweeting sometimes, saying he can’t wait to get back to his Seattle family. So he’s happy here. I think he’s come to a great organization and I think he’s going to do really well and score a lot of goals here.”

(Might we see some synchronized back-flips after some goals?) “(laughs) He’s proven that he can score goals in the biggest leagues in the world. This is a challenging league and a difficult league, and it’s just a matter of time before his goals come. I thought he had a good debut when he came on in the game against Portland. He showed what he can bring to the team, his strength and his willingness to get behind the back four. I think we were just a half second off on the timing where I could’ve tapped that in, when he played the ball across the box against Portland, but it’ll come. Like I said, I’m looking forward to playing with him this year.”


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