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Johnson set to face old nemesis in ex-Mexico goalkeeper

Eddie Johnson and Oswaldo Sanchez

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SEATTLE – It was five years ago, but Eddie Johnson still remembers.

Landon Donovan had just put the final touches on the United States’ 2-0 friendly victory over Mexico in Glendale, Ariz., rounding goalkeeper Oswaldo Sánchez and finishing on the empty net. As Johnson ran over to help celebrate with Donovan, Sánchez leapt to his feet and lunged at Johnson’s legs.

Johnson kept on his merry way, but the incident remained in the minds of many as an egregious breach of soccer etiquette. Speaking with reporters after Monday’s training session, the 27-year-old striker chalked the incident up to the high-pressure nature of the cross-border rivalry.

“That’s the past,” Johnson laughed. “Any time the US plays Mexico, it’s pretty intense. Sometimes guys lose [control of] their emotions, but no hard feelings. Great goalkeeper and looking forward to playing against him on Wednesday."

The two players will likely face one another on Wednesday night in the opening leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, when Johnson’s new team faces Sánchez’s Santos Laguna at CenturyLink Field (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer).

Sounders coach Sigi Schmid wouldn’t rule out a possible starting nod for Johnson, who got through full training again Monday as he recovers from a hamstring tweak.

The former USMNT striker didn’t play in last week’s Community Shield match vs. Jaguares de Chiapas, but it is excited to take the field in two days’ time.

“Whatever my role is as far as making a contribution on Wednesday, I’m looking forward to it,” Johnson said. “I feel like I’m ready – I’ve had some great training sessions and I’m learning the players every day, playing with the guys week in and week out.”

And that means Johnson's focus is on his club, not a potential return to the national team. After bouncing around England and Greece for the past few seasons, the former Kansas City striker is looking forward to getting his career reestablished.

“Right now, I can’t worry about that,” Johnson said of wearing the US colors again. “I know if I’m doing it here week in and week out and performing well, I’ll get my chance.

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t one of my goals this year. Whenever you play for your country, it’s such an amazing achievement and accomplishment. I miss it. It’s one of my goals, but right now, I’m committed to Seattle Sounders. If I’m scoring goals here, hopefully I’ll get my chance.”