SEATTLE – For years, Eddie Johnson was known as a forward utterly reliant on his speed. Not so these days. In 2012, Johnson has been all about using his head.
After scoring twice in Seattle’s 2-1 victory over Chivas USA on Saturday at CenturyLink Field, Johnson’s season tally is now 13 goals, a Sounders single-season record. Ten of those have come from headers.
“I’ve always been a decent header of the ball, it’s just practice,” Johnson said after the match. “Fortunately, I’m in a team where we have good guys who are good out wide and serve great balls into the box.”
And although Johnson gave Seattle three crucial points with a goal in the 89th minute, it wasn’t all good from the home side, which fell behind early in the match.
With the Sounders in need of a response to jump start the home crowd, the first Johnson goal came how most headers are built, off a set piece. Steve Zakuani drew a free kick on the left side of the penalty box, 10 yards from the corner flag. Seattle’s German DP, Christian Tiffert, whipped the free kick toward the back post, and the athletic forward rose over his defender to head into the far corner past a scrambling Dan Kennedy.
After the match, Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said Johnson’s heading ability provides a changeup for defenses looking to stop Seattle’s potent attack.
“It adds a dimension to our team.” Schmid said. “We really haven’t had that option in the box for a while. He’s been very sharp obviously in the air, and I’ll take them whether they’re headers or off the foot.”
With the final whistle looming, and the result appearing destined to be a draw, Johnson’s second header took on added importance.
The attack started with a precise pass from Alex Caskey toward the left corner for Fredy Montero. The Colombian beat two Chivas defenders to the ball and swung a precise left-footed cross in front of the Goats' goal. Once again, Johnson, was there to power a header past Kennedy, who actually got a piece of the ball, for a dramatic 89th-minute winner.
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“It was a great ball by Fredy, and in the end, I was just trying to get enough pace on the ball and head it down,” Johnson said.
It’s clear that Johnson’s favorite way to score is from his head, but as he puts it, what he likes even more is winning.
“I like heading the ball.” Johnson added, “If it had come to my foot, I would have been a little more nervous. The thing is now, ‘Can Eddie only score headers?’ As long as we’re winning games here, I’ll score the rest of the season with my head.”