Talks of FC Dallas and U.S. international forward Eddie Johnson heading abroad to play soccer have been officially put to bed as it was announced the 21-year-old has signed a contract with the club that will keep him in Dallas and MLS for years to come.
"This announcement is proof that Major League Soccer can compete for top players with any league in the world. I want to play in Major League Soccer and specifically with FC Dallas," said Johnson.
"I have said all along that it is my desire to win a championship here in Dallas this season and that is the most important thing on my mind right now. With MLS Cup in Frisco and the team we have put together, I like our chances and I am looking forward to continuing my MLS career in Dallas."
Johnson weighed the options of going to college or directly into MLS and chose the latter of the two, signing a contract with the Dallas club at the tender age of 17 after being selected in the second round (19th overall) in the 2001 MLS SuperDraft.
Early in his professional career, Johnson received limited playing time in his early years, but had current Real Salt Lake forward and MLS all-time goal scoring king Jason Kreis to teach him the ropes. While he was undergoing some soul searching, he did shine on the international stage, winning the Golden Boot in the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship as leading goal scorer, the first U.S. player to achieve the feat. That set the stage for a breakout year in 2004, when he shared the goal scoring lead with current teammate and Guatemalan international Carlos Ruiz. The two hit for 12 goals and in the process Johnson became the youngest player in MLS history to lead the league in goals.
The US international's form caught the eye of U.S. national team coach Bruce Arena late last year and on Oct. 9 he won his first cap in a semifinal round qualifier against El Salvador - when he scored his first full international goal. Since that game Johnson has represented the Red, White and Blue with distinction by scoring eight goals in eight games.
At the conclusion of the 2004 season the scoring sensation accepted an invitation to workout and train with Manchester United and gained valuable experience. He also caught the eye of Portuguese power SL Benfica, which reportedly offered $5 million to secure the services of Johnson, which would be the most ever offered by any U.S. player by an overseas club.
This season has been an extension to 2004 as Johnson has scored nine goals in five games before slowed by a toe injury that also put him out of the CONCACAF Gold Cup after continuing his goal-scoring exploits with the USA. He was also elected as a starter for the MLS All-Stars when they take on Fulham FC of the English Premiership on July 30 in the Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game, his first All-Star selection.
"It's an important step for us and part of the philosophy to keep the team together," said FC Dallas general manager Greg Elliott. "It is important part of what we are trying to do - keep players here and keep continuity."
Ron Goode is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.