WASHINGTON – Five games into his D.C. United career, Eddie Johnson is still waiting for his first goal.
Though Johnson put himself in dangerous spots on Saturday evening, and on two occasions came close to finishing, the US men’s national team striker was once again left wanting, still seeking that elusive final ball.
“My teammates bailed me out again this week!” a smiling Johnson told MLSsoccer.com after the match.
Those teammates – namely Davy Arnaud, whose fourth-minute tally was good enough to down the New York Red Bulls on Saturday evening – did indeed bail him out. For perhaps the first time in 2014, Johnson was on the receiving end of some excellent service, balls bent in and around New York’s back line.
And while "EJ" certainly did his share – his hold-up play contributed to a number of United’s offensive chances – many fans and pundits see things a bit more one-dimensionally, insisting that a forward’s job is to finish.
On Saturday, Johnson’s head coach was not one of those people.
"I thought Eddie's movement was very good, I thought he continued to play well out there and do what we're asking of him,” said Ben Olsen. "I know the goal didn't come again – and you guys will be all over that – but maybe try to focus in on three points and how well he's playing, and holding the ball up and doing some of the stuff this team needs to pick up those points.”
Added Johnson: “It’s always frustrating. I came here to score goals. If I wasn’t getting opportunities, then it’d be even more frustrating. The guys are starting to find me; my timing and understanding of when to make my run, when the guys get into position, it’s getting better and better every game. It’s just a matter of time.”
Johnson’s teammates were also quick to defend him, and Arnaud was no exception.
"You look at the way that Eddie has played the last two games: His role has been huge," said Saturday's goalscorer. "I know he hasn't scored a goal yet, but the way he holds the ball up and relieves pressure and wins headers, he's doing all the little things that people maybe don't notice as much.
"They think, 'Oh if you don't score if you're a forward, you're not doing your job.' That's not the case. He's doing his job and then some. The goals are going to come for Eddie, there's no doubt about that.”
Still, there’s no denying that Johnson’s patience has been tested, and that will continue until the Designated Player gets his name on the scoresheet. Until then, Johnson seems resolute to keep his head down and work towards that first strike.
“It’s about creating my own luck in front of the goal. I have no doubt that it’ll come. I gotta keep putting myself in those spots, keep training well, keep doing my finishing after practice. The most important thing is the win,” he said.
“I’m going to enjoy this as if I scored the goal,” EJ concluded. “I couldn’t be any happier with the way the team played and the way we saw it out from start to finish."