WASHINGTON – Just more than halfway into his first season with D.C. United, Eddie Johnson finally seems to be warming up.
Two months removed from a headline-grabbing exclusion from Jurgen Klinsmann’s 30-man World Cup roster, a re-focused Johnson has slowly but surely been making more and more of an impact on United’s matches.
After notching a goal and an assist in Sunday evening’s 3-1 drubbing of Chivas USA, D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen was full of praise for his forward.
“I thought Eddie was very good today,” Olsen told MLSsoccer.com. “I thought he was fantastic, he worked as hard as he ever has defensively for us.”
High praise – but something that EJ took in stride: "Yeah, Ben’s said that after my past couple of performances, though,” Johnson said after the match to the collection of media in a boisterous United locker room.
Those in attendance chuckled, but the forward's demeanor made it clear that he hadn’t been particularly satisfied with his past few efforts.
It has been a trying year for Johnson. Brought in to solve United’s scoring woes, he has often struggled to find the back of the net – Johnson still has just one goal from the run of play – and on Sunday, he spoke openly and earnestly about some of the frustrations and challenges he’s faced during his initial run with United.
That includes the aforementioned roster exclusion.
"I feel like the team and I are just getting familiar with our understanding on the field,” said Johnson. "It’s been frustrating obviously trying to create those understandings on the field. We all have individual goals, and clearly one of mine was to go to the World Cup. You go one, two, three, four, five games without scoring and you start to put a lot more pressure on yourself.”
With the 2014 World Cup firmly in the rear-view mirror, Johnson seems focused on putting his best foot forward at the club level.
"Once that whole World Cup thing was behind me, I could focus on really creating something special, and that’s what the coaches brought me here for in the offseason.”
Fans of United have also taken note of Johnson’s run of form, though many remain skeptical. It’s a cynicism that Olsen hopes will fade away soon.
“I think it’s important for Eddie to have people behind him,” noted Olsen. "It’s important for the fans to get behind him because he is in a lot of ways as good as it gets in this league. He has the ability to score, hold the ball up, technically he’s sound, he has good pace.
"He’s as well-rounded as a forward as you can get in this league and now it’s nice to see him touch the net a little bit and hopefully this just keeps on getting better. He does a lot of scoring in the summer traditionally and we hope that the goals keep coming."