U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann
took advantage of the new Gold Cup regulations that allow roster additions for the knockout stage, and
replied with a goal on his first touch in the 5-1 quarterfinal rout over El Salvador. It was the latest feat of Johnson's big comeback for the USA, which meets Honduras
in the Gold Cup semifinals on Wednesday (TV: 7 pm ET, FOX Soccer, UniMas).
Johnson entered Sunday’s quarterfinal in the 60th minute, replacing Chris Wondolowski
with the USA holding onto a 2-1. El Salvador had launched several dangerous forays pressing hard for an equalizing goal. Then, after being on the field for about 14 seconds, the 29-year-old forward
connected with a Landon Donovan
cross from a corner kick, sending a powerful header that Salvadoran keeper Dagoberto Portillo
could do nothing but watch find the back
of the net.
“Normally, coaches don’t really sub on corner kicks,” said
Johnson. “Jurgen brought me into camp for my ability to be dangerous. We have one of
the best crossers at this level in Landon Donovan, and for me it was just trying to get on the end of it. We talked about scoring on a set plays tonight and we did that.”
Johnson wasn’t done. Eighteen minutes later, he flicked a header to the onrushing Donovan, who rounded Portillo and calmly finished his 54th national team goal.
Johnson has been
scoring for the USA since a teenager. During his time in the Under-17 Residency Program in Bradenton, Fla., in 2000-2001, Johnson recorded a blistering 23 goals in 25 appearances. Johnson carried his
prolific international goalscoring form to Under-20 national team, where he scored 12 goals in 21 appearances from 2002-2003, including four goals at the Under-20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates
in 2003, which earned him the shared honor of the tournament’s top scorer.
Dallas selected the then 17-year-old Johnson in the second round of the 2001 MLS SuperDraft. He broke
through in 2004, when he scored 12 goals -- tied for the league lead with San Jose's Brian Ching
Coach Bruce Arena
called the young striker up for a pair of 2006 World Cup
qualifiers. Johnson scored in his international debut against El Salvador, and followed that performance up with a masterful display four days later against Panama where he recorded a hat trick. Arena
included Johnson on the American roster for their ill-fated 2006 World Cup campaign.
In 2007, Johnson scored 15 times for Kansas City, which led to a $5 million transfer to Fulham. But
Johnson’s European voyage proved frustrating as Fulham loaned him out during each season he was with the club. In total, Johnson made only 19 league appearances for Fulham without scoring a
single goal. Johnson did enjoy some success for Greek team Aris during a loan spell in 2010, where he scored five goals in 14 appearances.
After an unsuccessful tryout with Mexico's
Puebla, Coach Sigi Schmid
brought Johnson to Seattle in 2012 and he rediscovered the form, scoring 14 goals for the Sounders during his first season to earn him a recall to the U.S.
In his first U.S. game since 2010, Johnson scored both goals in the USA’s 2-1 World Cup qualifying win over Antigua & Barbuda last October. He also scored in last
month’s 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Panama.
On Johnson’s quick strike against El Salvador, Klinsmann said
“That was pretty fast! We have, obviously depending how the game goes,
we have already a couple of things in mind. If the game goes well, we want to bring on a new guy to give him minutes and an opportunity, but Eddie was planning to come in at a certain point because we
want to get him connected to this group as quickly as possible. Wondo deserved absolutely to start the game based on what he did in the last couple of games and it worked out really well."
Johnson will not likely have to wait an hour to hit the field against Honduras.