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"Johnson" is the Call from the Sidelines
New York Newsday, June 21st, 2006 2:33PM

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In the American press, those who don't understand that the United States not only played one of the traditional defensive powerhouses of world soccer, but had to do so after two of its players were sent off, might look at the team's goal-scoring record and conclude that team USA needs "an offensive paramedic." Against Ghana, they will certainly need their offensive players (Landon Donovan, Brian McBride, Clint Dempsey, Bobby Convey, DaMarcus Beasley) to start scoring goals againand several times, preferablyif this team is going any further. Newsday reports that the call from commentators around the nation is for Eddie Johnson to make his return to the U.S. starting lineup. Johnson, at 22, is the youngest man on the U.S. roster; his speed and aggression could be just what Bruce Arena needs to bring to a crucial group-deciding match. Many of those pundits (and there are countless numbers of them at papers across America) who don't watch or particularly like soccer, believe the answer to improving the game here in the U.S. is attracting kids like Johnson, who grew up in inner-city Florida, to play. U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati says diversity is actually the end-goal of his tenure in charge of the federation. While there's no problem getting whites and Hispanics to at least try the sport, the African-American community is a different story. "It's about exposure," Gulati said. Well, there's no more exposure than during the World Cup, and if Bruce decides to go with Johnsonas many pundits are askinghe'll have no bigger opportunity to shine than tomorrow.

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