CHESTER, Pa. – For Eddie Johnson, Wednesday’s MLS All-Star Game was all about returning a favor to his old US teammate Ben Olsen.
He thanked him in the form of one of the most dramatic goals in All-Star history, netting the game-winner in stoppage time to propel the MLS All-Stars to a thrilling 3-2 win over Chelsea FC at PPL Park.
“That’s what coach brought me here for,” Johnson said in the postgame press conference. “I’m just trying to pay him back for selecting me to the team.”
GOAL: Johnson wins ASG late
If it were up to Johnson, he would have paid him back sooner. According to Olsen, Johnson was “champing at the bit” to enter the game, before finally being called upon in the 60th minute to replace Chris Wondolowski, who netted the first goal for the All-Stars.
It turned out to be an effective strategy as Johnson used his speed off the bench to turn around Chelsea defender David Luiz and then blast a shot that deflected off Luiz and into the net. The goal broke a 2-2 deadlock and sent the PPL Park crowd into a frenzy.
“He wanted to get in there and we were talking about the way we saw a lot of holes because they were getting a little leggy and we knew we could exploit that,” Olsen said. “It’s nice to see it. I’ve always known Eddie. He’s a great guy. He’s had ups and downs and I hope he continues to succeed.”
For the Seattle Sounders striker, Wednesday’s All-Star goal was another special moment in what has so far been a wildly successful return to MLS. After spending four years overseas, Johnson has scored eight goals this season, including five in his last seven games.
Has he proved yet that he’s returned to the old form that made him one of the country’s top young talents?
“I’m not really trying to prove anything to doubters,” said Johnson, whose only other All-Star appearance came in 2007. “I wanted to prove to myself. … This year I want to challenge myself and try to be as consistent as I can. That’s the one thing I look back at my career and I haven’t been able to really be consistent.”
Players around the league are certainly taking notice of the former US international’s revival. And his teammates seemed thrilled that it was Johnson who was able to send the MLS All-Stars to their first victory since 2008.
“He’s definitely had some downs in the last few years,” Landon Donovan said. “I was on the bus ride over with him when we got to the airport [on Sunday]. … We talked a little bit and he was saying how excited he was for an opportunity like this because it’s been so long.
You could tell he was excited about the game. It was a good moment for him. Hopefully, it keeps going in the league. We’re all happy for him.”
E-mail Dave Zeitlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.