Eddie Johnson, the U.S. national soccer team's scoring revelation over the past eight months, has been scratched from the roster because of a lingering toe injury and will not be available for Wednesday's World Cup qualifier in Panama.
"He's not ready to play," Coach Bruce Arena said Sunday after a workout at Rice-Eccles Stadium. "You've got to do what's in his best interests. In a matter of weeks, he'll be back playing again."
Johnson, 21, was held out of the 2-1 exhibition loss to England in Chicago on May 28 and the 3-0 victory over Costa Rica here Saturday night, but had been expected to be ready for the Panama match. Team officials determined Sunday that Johnson's injury, a condition called turf toe, would prevent him from being at full strength.
The FC Dallas forward has scored eight goals in eight U.S. appearances, including seven goals in six qualifiers since last October.
In his absence Saturday, Josh Wolff was paired with Brian McBride on the forward line for the second straight game, and midfielder DaMarcus Beasley was moved into a more attacking role. There could be a similar arrangement in Panama, although German-based forward Conor Casey is also an option.
The Americans will also head to Panama City without defender Cory Gibbs, who missed Saturday's game with a bruised knee and was scratched from the roster Sunday.
Defender Oguchi Onyewu, from Olney, has been slowed by a strained knee ligament but will make the trip. Another defender, Greg Vanney, rejoined the roster Sunday after being released in order to play for his MLS team, FC Dallas, against Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
The U.S. squad (3-1-0) will depart Monday afternoon for Panama, where it scrambled for a 1-1 tie in the semifinal round last fall. Although the Americans have six qualifiers remaining, a victory this week would move them to the brink of a berth in the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Mexico (3-0-1) is the only other team with a winning record in the six-nation group, which will send three representatives to the World Cup next summer.