TUWKILA, Wash. — Eddie Johnson is on his way back.
Since coming to the Seattle Sounders last month, the forward has seen precious little time on the field, practice or otherwise. A pair of injuries held him to just 39 minutes of competitive action, kept him out of both of the Sounders’ two MLS games and limited his ability to train at full speed.
On Monday, the US international made some real progress. With the Sounders practicing with a reduced squad as their reserves played against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Johnson was able to fully participate in training for the first time since leaving the March 14 Champions League game against Santos Laguna with a hip-flexor strain. He looked strong in finishing drills, scoring several goals and generally looked sharp despite his nearly two-week absence.
“Eddie is definitely coming along,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid told reporters after Monday’s session. “We want to be careful because we felt maybe we pushed him in a little too quickly last time. We think he’s getting closer. He participated full out in training today so we anticipate he’ll be able to go full out again on Wednesday, and then we’ll have to decide about this weekend. It might be a little bit too soon.”
Johnson echoed Schmid’s assessment about not wanting to push it too quickly and deemed himself day-to-day. He did note that he was feeling as good as he has since first suffering a hamstring injury.
Providing some motivation to Johnson’s recovery has been the play of the Sounders in his absence. In the two MLS games they’ve played without the World Cup veteran, they've scored five goals. David Estrada, who has been starting alongside Fredy Montero, has scored four of those and established himself as the league’s hottest striker.
“I’d be lying if I said any player didn’t want to jump out there and be a part of the wonderful football we’re playing right now,” Johnson said. “It’s good watching it from the players’ lounge, but the team is playing some unbelievable football and these things are contagious when things are going well like this. I’m looking forward to getting out there and being part of the fun.”
What role Johnson will be playing is not exactly clear. While it was largely assumed that he would be starting, Estrada has played so well that it would be almost impossible to bench him. That sits just fine with Johnson, who says he’s well aware of his need to prove himself to both his new teammates and coaches.
“I’ve never had a starting spot from the beginning,” said Johnson, whose 47 international appearances are second most among the Sounders. “I was brought here to be a part of the success the team was already having. There was nothing handed to me. As a player you have to work for everything in life.
“Right now the team is doing a wonderful job and hopefully we can continue.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.