WASHINGTON – Not too many people saw this coming.
Eight games into his first season with D.C. United, and US national team forward Eddie Johnson has yet to find the back of the net.
Though the former Seattle Sounder has found other ways to contribute – strong hold-up play, opening up space for his teammates and delivering a handful of dangerous crosses - that first goal remains elusive.
On Wednesday, EJ reflected on his first few months with D.C. and shed some light on just how much of an adjustment it’s been.
“It has been difficult,” Johnson told MLSsoccer.com after United’s training session. "I’ve been asked to play a different style of soccer than I’ve been playing the last two years in Seattle.”
"Obviously, I feel like here we’re more of a pressing, hardworking team, and we can press the ball high up the field and win balls, be good in that area and break in our attacking half. Whereas in Seattle – and no disrespect to the guys that are here – I felt like I didn’t have to run as much because we had better guys that had more quality on the ball. I feel like the styles are completely different.”
Johnson spent his tenure in Seattle on the end of service played in by the likes of Mauro Rosales, Mario Martinez, Ozzie Alonso, DeAndre Yedlin and Brad Evans, playing for one of MLS’ most financially powerful franchises.
Though United have their share of weapons amongst a mix of youngsters and MLS veterans, financial constraints and injury concerns sometimes keep D.C. from fielding the type of team Seattle marches out on a weekly basis.
Stylistically, United and and the Sounders are indeed different animals, as well. United – who have been looking more and more like a cohesive unit through the first quarter of their season – have ground results out over the past several seasons.
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"I think that’s what’s been the challenging part. I think I spend a lot of time in the air here, flicking balls on,” said Johnson on Wednesday, “whereas in Seattle I’d get more balls into my feet and play more combinations off the other midfielders and strikers in the game.
“Here, we’ve been a bit more direct, which has been challenging, something I’ve been getting used to.”
With the World Cup right around the corner, some may wonder whether a potential USMNT call-up has distracted Johnson from his club duties, something EJ flatly denies. On Wednesday, Johnson reaffirmed his commitment.
"I’m more focused here in D.C. – we were on a good streak and unfortunately that streak broke,” he said, alluding to the five-game unbeaten streak that ended in Portland last weekend. “For me, it’s really been about adapting to this new system and the players that are around me. At the the end of the day, we’re still in a good position.
"If this was a one-man game, I’d be playing volleyball or golf right now."