Eddie Johnson scored for Fulham this past weekend in a pre-season tune-up against Melbourne Victory of the Australian A-League, which the Cottagers won 3-0. This was Johnson’s first goal in all competitions for the English Premier League side since joining in early 2008. Does this goal forecast a revival for the forgotten United States’ striker?
The word most characteristic of Eddie Johnson’s football career may very well be “inconsistent.” Since 2000 when Johnson was 16, his time in professional football has been full of ups and downs. Showing great potential at IMG Soccer Academy and as an establishment on the United States U-17 team, Johnson was drafted into the MLS by the Dallas Burn. Initially he lacked consistency and struggled to find playing time. By the end of 2003, though, Johnson had burst onto the United States soccer scene, winning the Golden Shoe at that year’s FIFA World Youth Championships as the tournament’s top scorer and also finding the back of the net more often with Dallas in MLS. Soon after, he began earning caps with U.S. Men’s Senior Squad. With impressive performances during the qualifying campaign for the 2006 World Cup, Johnson earned himself limited, but valuable playing time in Germany that summer. Following the World Cup, though, Johnson’s club performances grew worse, resulting in a loss of his spot on the national team. A quick reemergence in form, however, saw him once again thriving in MLS with the Kansas City Wizards. At this, Johnson signed with Fulham, where his inconsistency has since been an issue.
The interesting thing, though, is that Johnson has a boatload of potential- and European football has acknowledged this. In 2005, Benefica (Portugal) attempted to sign Johnson for $5 million, a deal both the striker and MLS rejected. Just before the 2006-2007 European football campaign, Johnson would have began a yearlong loan at La Liga’s Real Sociedad if new ownership of Kansas City, Johnson’s club at the time, had not interfered. Later that year, Johnson trained with English Premier League side Reading, although a deal was never completed. And in 2007 after being linked with newly promoted Premiership side Derby County, Johnson signed with Fulham, another EPL team, finally taking his football career abroad.
Johnson’s first months at Fulham were a disaster. He managed only six appearances and when on the pitch, was absolutely ineffective. Manager Roy Hodgson often played Johnson as a winger in a 4-3-3 formation rather than his preferred role up top, contributing to the American’s struggles at Craven Cottage. Fulham then decided to loan Johnson to Championship side Cardiff City. At Cardiff, Johnson was far from spectacular, although much improved, finding 30 appearances and scoring two goals.
This summer the American striker has returned to Fulham hoping to build on his experience in English football’s second division. Fulham are coming off a fantastic season that saw them finish seventh in the Premier League and earn qualification for this season’s Europa Leauge. They do, however, lack depth and will be looking for a contribution from Johnson in a busier-than-usual campaign this coming season. And with recent reports indicating that Fulham have sold striker Bobby Zamora, a regular in the Fulham starting eleven last season, Hodgson may be looking for Johnson to take on a more active role this year.
Potential is something Eddie Johnson certainly does not lack. After a yearlong struggle in England, Johnson should find himself a more matured and experienced footballer. He now must realize that he cannot waltz around amongst the world’s top competition like he could in MLS. Johnson’s goal this past weekend provides a glimmer of hope that he may rediscover his form with the Cottagers this fall. Should he do so, the young American talent has a bright future ahead of him.