Was the Eddie Johnson Omission From USA World Cup Squad Fair?
Today Jurgen Klinsmann announced his 30-man preliminary roster for the 2014 World Cup squad that will represent the United States of America in Brazil this summer. Amongst the names were fan favorites and renowned USA stars like Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, and Michael Bradley, but lost from the team was striker Eddie Johnson, whose important goals in World Cup qualification helped the team even get to this position. While Johnson is certainly at an advanced age and has endured a slumping start to the current MLS season, is it fair for such a soccer hero to not even earn consideration for the national team?
In short, the answer is yes, and this is one of the challenges presented by a World Cup schedule that features a tournament just once every 4 years.
Nearly 2 years ago Eddie Johnson was the hero in a nervy qualification match versus Antigua and Barbuda, an island nation in the Caribbean. He scored two goals (including a stoppage time winner!) to see America through. Then last summer, Johnson was a star during the USA’s run to the Gold Cup title. He scored two goals, including one in the semifinal match to open the scoring against Honduras. He even continued to assist the American qualification hopes with a goal against Mexico last September. In short, he has been a memorable and helpful face to the American Men’s National soccer team in the past several years, though at this vital moment he has been denied the experience of a lifetime (and probably the last of his career too!). What happened?
Well, in short, sports and selecting players is more about what you can do in the future than what you did yesterday, and if current form is to be analyzed, Eddie Johnson is fully undeserving of a roster spot on the USA team. So far in the MLS season, Johnson has appeared 8 times for D.C. United as a starter. He has notched just 1 assist and scored 0 goals. Simply put, anyone that struggles so badly to score against MLS opposition has no business being on a World Cup roster for the USA.
It’s been an unfortunate year for Johnson. He had a bit of a career resurgence when he came back to MLS in 2012 with the Seattle Sounder, and he scored 29 goals in just two seasons! But after a tricky contract situation in the offseason he was dealt to D.C. United, and he has clearly failed to fit in with his new team. Yes, coming to a new side can be a major challenge, but Johnson has seemingly fallen completely to the wayside. Perhaps age is catching up to the player at 30, but for whatever reason he was rightly excluded from this roster.
Lastly, Johnson’s recent failure has been due to several other players bursting with talent and potential. Young forwards like Aron Johannsson and Terence Boyd have proven themselves with successful goal-filled seasons at respectable clubs in Europe. Additionally, mature MLS veteran Chris Wondolowski continues to simply notch goals, with 5 already this season in just 7 appearances for the San Jose Earthquakes. These are the players that deserve to be competing at the fringes for the final 23-man USA roster that makes the trip to Brazil. Unfortunately, it hurts to see a guy like Eddie Johnson fail at this vital last hurdle to the World Cup, but Klinsmann has made the right choice which will prove to be best for this team!