It wasn’t supposed to go like this for Eddie Johnson.
The D.C. United striker was on the bubble for the USA’s 23-man World Cup roster, but he didn’t even make coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s 30-man provisional squad, ending his World Cup dream prematurely after becoming a key part of the team’s qualifying run.
So where does Johnson go from here?
In the short term, he becomes available for United games again. Even if he hadn’t been cut until the final World Cup roster was set, he would’ve missed United’s remaining four matches in May due to USA camp and friendlies. Had he made the World Cup team, it’s likely he would’ve missed an additional three games.
Undoubtedly, Johnson’s United teammates are happy to have their designated player around for up to seven bonus games. In the long term, though, the team has to wonder where Johnson’s mind will be.
Throughout Johnson’s career, motivation has been a large part of his successes — and his failures.
In 2004, he scored 12 goals for Dallas, which earned him a contract that made him the third-highest-paid player in MLS. Over the next two seasons, he totaled only seven goals.
After receiving a big payday to move to Premier League side Fulham in 2007, Johnson scored a total of two goals during three seasons in England, most of which were spent on loan.
Upon returning to MLS with Seattle in 2012, Johnson had to prove himself all over again — and he delivered, scoring 23 times in two seasons. Seattle wasn’t willing to meet his demands for a raise, so they shipped him off to a team that would — D.C. United.
With another big payday behind him, Johnson has failed to score so far in his brief stint with United. Without the motivation of a World Cup spot, could his season continue to spiral downward? Or will he play with a chip on his shoulder, eager to prove Klinsmann wrong and work his way back into the national team picture post-World Cup?
The answer could go a long way toward determining United’s success this season.