Kick Off: Johnson's wild ride brings him back to US camp

Kick Off: Eddie Johnson

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It’s been four long years since Eddie Johnson actually scored a goal for the US national team, but let’s be real. In the world of EJ, evidently, that’s more than enough time for a man to change.

With his career reborn during a second stint in MLS, Johnson has vaulted back into the USMNT picture for the first time since a fruitless call to the 30-man camp ahead of the World Cup in 2010. And, with star striker Jozy Altidore surprisingly left of the US roster for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers beginning on Friday, Johnson just might be one of the most crucial pieces of the puzzle during Jurgen Klinsmann’s camp in Miami, which opened on Tuesday.

“This is Eddie’s opportunity,” Klinsmann told reporters after the first workout, which included just 11 players. “Eddie has a big smile on his face. He has proved in the past that he can score goals, and we need goals.”

Johnson could face even more pressure given that two of the US’ offensive catalysts – LA Galaxy star Landon Donovan (knee) and FC Dallas winger Brek Shea (abdominal strain) – were both ruled out of competition due to injury. While Klinsmann did name San Jose Earthquakes star Chris Wondolowski and Rapid Vienna striker Terrence Boyd as alternates, he indicated he likely won’t replace either player in the camp.

But can you really trust anything Klinsmann says anymore? That’s the question posed by Brian Straus of the Sporting News, who in his latest piece takes Klinsmann to task for some broken promises and lofty rhetoric since taking over for Bob Bradley last summer.

“Going forward — assuming there is a forward after next week — Klinsmann would be best served by avoiding promising things that will take years to deliver,” Straus writes, “making generalizations that can be contradicted easily and letting the heat of the moment get to him when addressing a crowded room.”

Here’s more from Klinsmann in the form a straight-up Q&A with the folks at FIFA.com.

And folks are still buzzing about the Altidore exclusion and what it means for both the present and the future of the US team. NBC Sports’ Richard Farley says it’s all in the name of progress for the US, while Ives Galarcep questions the timing.

“Klinsmann is sending a message, not just to Altidore, but to the entire US player pool, that no job is safe, and that if you don't play well enough you can lose your spot,” Galarcep writes. “As admirable a stance as that is to take, the timing of it, with the national team's World Cup qualifying hopes on the line, feels very much like a risky gamble.

One player back in US camp and happy to be there is midfielder Michael Bradley, who will suit up for the US on Friday for the first time since his summertime switch to Roma. Now a proven commodity in Serie A, Bradley says when it comes to preparation, there’s simply “no comparison” between his new digs and the previous stops in his career.

And here’s an interesting comparison of the paths to the World Cup for the US and some of their contemporaries in the FIFA rankings. Is CONCACAF really that tough?

So much pressure, so little time to fish. Kick back with Clint Dempsey for a second, man, and just relax.

Switching to MLS, where players and coaches are in limbo this week for the FIFA date. But that doesn’t mean teams aren’t still crunching the numbers of just exactly what they need to the make the postseason. Here’s a look at the odds for some of those teams hanging on by a thread.

Sporting Kansas City are already in the postseason, and they received some good news Tuesday that indicated rugged Honduran midfielder Roger Espinoza will be ready to go. Despite initially insisting that he broke his ankle during a draw in Columbus on Sunday, it turns out it’s only a sprain.

Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens, meanwhile, is also expected to miss the final two regular-season games with an injury.

And Omar Salgado? The Vancouver Whitecaps sophomore just wants to play, but his right foot is still giving him trouble after suffering a fracture in June.

The other big news in Vancouver surrounds captain Jay DeMerit, who, despite boasting that “power mullet” for the Whitecaps’ stretch run, is engaged to wed Olympic gold medal-winning skier Ashleigh McIvor.

"Any time I can propose with a mullet and she says yes means you've got a pretty good girl," DeMerit tweeted.

The news is less joyful in Toronto, where the club is in mourning after the passing of head coach Paul Mariner’s father back in his native England. Mariner returned home on Saturday and is not expected to rejoin the club until early next week.

It’s never too early to talk about the 2013 preseason, especially if you’ve been knocked out of postseason contention. The Philadelphia Union have announced they’ll be back on US soil next spring and will compete in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic in Orlando.

Wednesday means it’s time to make sense of the latest round of Power Rankings, so let’s go. Check out the polls from MLSsoccer.com, the NBC Sports Network and SB Nation.

The word is in from central Florida, where the folks at Orlando City SC have completed their study on the economic impact an MLS team would have in their market. The result? A projected $1.2 billion economic impact to Orlando over a 30-year period.

Here’s more on the topic.

As for the new stadium in Queens, N.Y., it appears MLS officials have asked the architectural firm behind the simultaneously glamorous and gritty new Barclays Center in Brooklyn to produce an initial scheme for the soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows.

Staying in New York, there’s some new information about the recent murder of a New York Red Bulls youth coach, but it’s not good. The top suspect in the case has evidently fled to the country to Mexico.

Here’s the word from the RBNY coach’s family back in England, and the news that a memorial service will be held on Wednesday.

Phil Anschutz made waves in the business world on Tuesday when he kicked off the auction for AEG, the sports and entertainment giant whose holdings include both the LA Galaxy and the Houston Dynamo. The company is now expected to draw $10 billion.

Is Pep Guardiola headed to Arsenal? It would make perfect sense, according to one MLSer who knows a thing or two about the international scene.

And last but not least, here’s a look at the NASL Best XI, where you’re sure to see some players you’ll recognize from MLS. Will these guys be back in the league in the future?

MLSsoccer.com Musts

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