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June 11, 2013 at 11:25 PM

Eddie Johnson scores for the U.S. in front of his home crowd: ‘It’s a dream come true.’

Sounders FC’s Eddie Johnson was a hometown hero for the U.S. national team Tuesday, as a scored an insurance to a 2-0 World Cup qualifying win against Panama at CenturyLink Field. Here is what Johnson had to say after the game:

*     *     *

(On scoring for the U.S. in front of his home crowd…) “It’s a dream come true. To play in the U.S. jersey, first of all, is an honor, but to play in front of my fans that I play in front of week in and week out, I couldn’t have asked for a better feeling after the goal tonight. And getting three points was most important.”

(On the atmosphere…) “I’ve been telling the guys throughout the week, ‘Wait until gameday. Watch and see what the fans are like.’ They got a taste of it in the Vancouver game. But that’s all the boys have been talking about after the game in the dressing room — the crowd, and I’m not saying any names, but how they’d love to play in Seattle one day. Saying that, ‘Eddie you’re lucky to play in such great fans. They’re very passionate. They all said it’s a European atmosphere. That’s good to hear, and to play here week in and week out, I’m grateful.”

(On what it’s like playing on the wing instead of as a forward…) “Tiring. A lot of up and down. Naw… It’s a challenge. At the end of the day, you want to improve as a player and better yourself and add to your game. Coach Jurgen, he’s been sticking me out there because he sees something in me that the previous coaches for the national team haven’t seen. He’s a big motivator. When you’re out there, he gives you a ton of confidence and tells me and the rest of the guys to just go out there and have fun. Right now, we’re all having fun and we’re all on the same page. We have the same goal and that’s qualifying for the World Cup. One more game to put us in a good position to make that happen.”

(On the goal…) “It was a good ball. We talked at halftime about it when we get the ball. I told (Geoff Cameron) he has a lot more time on the ball than he knows, and that I was going to try and come off the back shoulder of the last defender. Omar and Brad tried to find me a couple times in the first half, but it was just a great ball by Geoff. He plays that position quite a bit at Stoke City. He was called upon to play a role tonight, and he did it.”

(On the game…) “Tonight, we possessed the ball really well. We talked about it, and Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey are playing with a lot of confidence. The guys want the ball, and it’s just like playing up top if I’m out wide — you see a play developing and just setting my defender up, waiting for him to take his eye off me, and there’s that natural instinct to try and get in behind. I saw Geoff had space and time on the ball, and it was on his strong foot. I knew if it was on his strong foot … I knew I could make a run in behind. I like my chances running in behind.”

(On if he knew it was a goal when he got it…) “I didn’t know it was a goal. I knew the ball was good and it was all about my first touch. You’re first touch is everything, you set yourself up for your next touch, and I was already across my defender. The most important thing for me was to be relaxed, be composed in the box and the first touch was good. At the end of the day, if I’m a winger, I become a striker in the box if I’m in front of goal.”

(On Jozy Altidore overcoming controversy and getting hot….) “I’m just focused on the positive. I’m not going to worry about that. They can criticize him all they want. The guy has scored, I think, 50 goals in two seasons in Holland. He’s young, has a lot of potential. He’s learning. I’m happy for the kid because at the end of the day it’s about confidence in front of goal. The coaches have been given him a lot of confidence when things haven’t been going quite well for him in the national team. As a player, at the end of the day, it’s about playing for a manager that has a lot of confidence in you when it’s not going well. And getting that goal to get that burden off your back, once you get one, they start coming in pairs. Right now, he’s on fire and I’m happy for him. But none of those goals (come) without the rest of the work the guys are doing to set him up. Graham Zusi, who was suspended tonight, he and Jozy are finding a good relationship out wide. He’d assisted on last two (by Altidore). But he’s on fire. It goes to show the year he’s having and I’m happy for him.”


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