TUKWILA, Wash. – In the time it took for the ball to travel from Adam Johansson’s foot to Álvaro Fernández’s and into the back of the net, all the preseason expectations started to make a whole lot more sense.
Johansson’s roughly 50-yard cross, which Fernández volleyed past the goalkeeper, gave the Sounders an early 1-0 lead on Sunday in New York. He followed that up with a secondary assist on Fredy Montero’s equalizer in the second half in an eventual’s 2-2 tie against the Red Bulls.
Nearly as importantly, Johansson’s play showed what he’s capable of now that he’s finally feeling healthy after an injury-riddled start.
GOAL: Johansson finds Fernandez
“I try to be an offensive right back, that’s the way I used to play back in Sweden,” Johansson told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “I’m trying to play that way here. But since I’ve had a couple of injuries, until the last month I’m just trying to get back with my physique and get back with my play.
“Maybe the last week I felt like I was in better shape. Before the game I felt good.”
Keeping Johansson healthy seems to be the biggest key to his newfound form.
“We think he’s a good outside back who has abilities to help us offensively, which he’s done and shown at times,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “It’s just the nagging hamstring injury that has really kept him from establishing his rhythm. We’ve been trying to keep him to a one-game-a-week rhythm and I think we’ve gotten some good things out of him.”
The performance on Sunday was doubly encouraging because Johansson also played a starring role on defense. His most notable moment came in the 75th minute when he cleared a Dax McCarty header off the line that would have otherwise given the Red Bulls the lead.
He managed put in the performance despite playing in probably the toughest conditions he’s faced this year.
“I thought he was going to wilt in the heat and humidity a little bit more because that’s not common weather pattern in Stockholm,” Schmid said. “He held up fairly well, made some good runs forward really well.”
Johansson said this is the healthiest he’s felt since March, when he joined the Sounders following a stint with the Swedish national team. If he can keep up this kind of play, he could well find himself wearing blue and yellow again.
“I can definitely be even better,” he said. “I just need to play games constantly. Playing games every week, that’s how you get better physique and a better touch and a better game.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.