D.C. United forward Eddie Johnson on Tuesday apologized for a social media exchange with fans following a 3-0 loss at Real Salt Lake on Saturday night.
“Sometimes you don’t think before you react,” Johnson said after practice at RFK Stadium. “Being too emotional, which I am, it’s something I have got to get better at. Hopefully the fans accept my apology.”
After the defeat, Johnson, 30, engaged with fans who had criticized him on Twitter for intentionally kicking the ball at a fallen opponent after the whistle. At one point, reacting to a user who said other athletes in Washington play hard when things aren’t going well, Johnson wrote: “I’m not here to please your town buddy.”
Coach Ben Olsen discussed the matter with Johnson before Tuesday’s practice. “A long discussion. It was just them,” assistant coach Chad Ashton said.
Olsen declined to go into detail and said he did not fine Johnson.
However, “that stuff is unacceptable. … He has got to react better to things that don’t go his way. I love the guy but he has got to get better in a lot of areas.”
On Monday, Johnson posted an apology to fans on Twitter.
It was not the first time this summer Johnson has tangled on Twitter. Two weeks ago, before a match at Houston, he responded angrily to criticism by former Dynamo star Brian Ching.
Asked if Olsen had banned him from Twitter, Johnson said: “I think I banned myself, man. I had a couple of incidents too in Seattle [where he played in 2012-13]. I am a real emotional person. I’ve always been that way growing up. When you don’t have an older brother, you’ve always got to take up for yourself.”
Johnson escaped internal punishment but is likely to be suspended by MLS for the incident with Carlos Salcedo in the first half Saturday. After getting called for a foul, Johnson intentionally slammed the ball off the RSL defender’s backside. He received a yellow card but, according to Olsen, deserved a red. MLS’s disciplinary committee will review the play this week.
“Silly, silly play from him that put his team at risk” of playing shorthanded, Olsen said. “He should’ve been thrown out and I am sure we will see a suspension. It’s not good enough.”
If sanctioned, Johnson would miss Sunday night’s home match against the Colorado Rapids.
Said Johnson: “Whatever punishment is done, I will have to pay for it. I am a man. I have to stand for it. There are no excuses for what happened.”
Johnson has had a difficult year on and off the field. A key contributor to the U.S. national team qualifying for the World Cup, he was a glaring omission from the training camp roster ahead of the tournament in Brazil. Johnson’s behavior played a part in Coach Jurgen Klinsmann‘s decision: He was involved in a scuffle with U.S. teammate Eric Lichaj before a friendly in Scotland last fall, multiple sources said. And this spring, he had to apologize to D.C. teammates for implying they were not as good as his former Seattle colleagues.
Johnson has not met expectations on the field, scoring four goals (two on penalty kicks) in 19 appearances after recording 23 in two seasons with the Sounders. United made him the centerpiece of its rebuilding effort after winning just three games last season. His $505,000 base salary ($613,333 overall) is the highest on the team and guaranteed for two years.
Despite Johnson’s lack of production, Olsen has said repeatedly he is pleased with his forward’s overall contributions to a team on pace for the greatest one-year turnaround in MLS history.
“I don’t want what happened to take away from what we are trying to accomplish,” Johnson said. “I wanted to clear up with the fans that I am happy to be here and I wasn’t going after the fans because even during my difficult times, they have always stood behind me.
“We’ve got a lot of good going on in this team. They have invested a lot in me and I want to reward them for all they put in in getting me here and dealing with all of the things that are said about me in the soccer world. It takes a lot of risk.”
Asked about social media in general, Olsen said: “I was on [Twitter] for four days [recently]. I was on it. And I erased it. It was starting to bring me in and I erased it. I just don’t get it. I do not get it. I am not against it. It seems like a wonderful tool for everyone. It was miserable. I kept clicking the button and hearing everyone’s opinions about themselves and others. I erased it and I felt great.”