Eddie Johnson to D.C. is happening: What this means for Seattle, United

7 Comments

If you’ve been following the Washington Post’s reporting on the deal (probably through Steven Goff’s Twitter feed), you know a Eddie Johnson-to-D.C. United deal has been done since last night. Throughout the day, approval from Major League Soccer headquarters was all that sustained Johnson’s tenuous links to Seattle, but by mid-afternoon New York time, the deal was done. The 29-year-old U.S. international was swapping rave green for red and black, with a yacht-load of allocation money set to arrive on Puget Sound.

How much allocation exactly? Who knows. As Goff perfectly puts it, “given MLS’s secrecy on such matters, (the amount) will probably never be revealed publicly.” If speculation about maximum allocation scenarios is true, the Sounders could get well north of half-a-million in funny money.

For a Seattle team revamping a roster after their 2013 collapse, that amount would be huge. Well, it’d be huge for any club, but for a team in the Sounders’ position, it would be especially useful. With Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, and Osvaldo Alonso, Seattle has no more Designated Player (DP) spots, a mild inconvenience for a team that can go out and get Dempsey and Martins-level players. If they receive a big chunk of MLS’s play money, the Sounders can buy that last railroad, put hotels on those neglected green properties, and potentially pay down Alonso’s salary cap hit, freeing up a DP spot.

The Sounders have already added Stefan Frei in goal. Not a bad replacement for Michael Gspurning. They’ve taken on Chad Marshall in the middle of defense, and Kenny Cooper’s been tacked on up top. Very good and perhaps very good. They still have (a seemingly major) hole at left midfield, and Clint Dempsey still needs to show he can be the type of creative presence that Seattle’s counting on, but Adrian Hanauer’s putting in the time on Seattle’s phone lines. He’s already addressed two of his team’s problem areas.

Whether trading Johnson creates a third is open to debate. The U.S. international was the team’s best attacker last year, but in the wake of Seattle’s conference semifinal elimination at the boots of rival Portland, Johnson’s been thrown to the curb, awaiting a bus that will either take him out of town or try to run him over (depending on how you want to extend the metaphor). Regardless, the relationship between the Sounders and one of their best players was beyond repair, with Johnson becoming a convenient target for people searching for explanations.

The Sounders have admitted the locker room was bad at the end of last season, and Johnson was publicly campaigning for a new deal. (Remember the “pay me” goal celebration?) Owner Joe Roth cited players’ attitudes and lack of effort at the club’s annual business meeting, remarks that were seen as another instance of calling out Johnson (among others). After it became clear Johnson would not return, the magic Seattle conjured in 2012 with “E.J.” dwindled into a form of scapegoating.

Johnson is not an innocent party here. He played into it all, but as he appears set to move across the country, the question is whether Ben Olsen and United can avoid some of the pitfalls that befell Sigi Schmid and Seattle. Making him a Designated Player, as The Post’s reporting suggests they will, is a great start, as it gives Johnson the appreciation he feels he deserves. Given the state of United’s squad, D.C. are also likely to play directly to its new forward’s strengths, something that became an issue between Schmid and Johnson by season’s end. Averaging a goal every 167 minutes since returning to Major League Soccer, a committed Johnson is somebody D.C. can build around.

source: AP
With three wins in 2013, D.C. United set a Major League Soccer mark for futility despite winning the U.S. Open Cup. Now, they’re ready to make Eddie Johnson a Designated Player with the hope their attacking problems will be solved. (Photo: AP)

Of course, everybody will be wondering about personalities. Rightly or wrongly, Johnson’s acquired a certain reputation throughout his Major League Soccer career, flames of which will only be fanned by how he’s leaving Seattle. Olsen, a former U.S. international himself, is not known as somebody with a high tolerance for player entitlement. On the surface, this seems like a potentially combustable relationship.

While that’s certainly the case, implying Olsen can’t handle egos seems to short-change him as a coach. Perhaps, at 36 years old, Olsen still lacks the type of man management experience Schmid brought to bear on Johnson, but he won’t be completely ignorant of the need to employ different approaches with different players. That doesn’t mean one set of rules for E.J., another for the rest of the team (something Olden would probably frown on), but if it means having to go the extra mile to make sure you’re always on the same page as a key player, Olsen’s certainly capable of doing it.

At the end of Johnson’s time in Seattle, the Sounders were no longer willing to do that. They wanted to move on and are getting a huge chunk of allocation to do so. But that doesn’t mean Johnson can’t be productive for another team. The set of challenges you inherit with him are unique, but as the Sounders showed just 12 months ago, those challenges can be overcome.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.

Southgate can see Defoe in England squad long-term

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Gareth Southgate praised Jermain Defoe after his contributions to England’s 2-0 win over Lithuania on Sunday, but accidentally put a condition on his position in the squad.

The 34-year-old scored the opening goal and contributed heavily to the buildup of Jamie Vardy‘s score, and Southgate was happy that his decision to play an in-form striker paid off.

“If he scores like he is in the Premier League, there’s no reason why he wouldn’t be,” Southgate said. “We’re never able to pick a full cohort, so it’s important we can call upon the likes of Jermain and he can have the impact like he did today.

“I think we’ve got to look every time we get together as to who is in form. I don’t know if we can have a distinct pecking order because players who are playing well deserve the opportunity. If we are going to be successful, we have to have that competition for places. The reality is we will always lose players to injury.”

[ MORE: Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery before England game ]

A reporter asked him to clarify why he specified that Defoe should be scoring in the Premier League, and with his club Sunderland under heavy threat of relegation, Southgate admitted he let one slip.

“I walked into that,” Southgate said. “I guess the ideal world for all our players is they are playing regularly at a high level. The flip-side is we don’t have a huge pool of players to pick from.  We have to balance off a few different things. I can’t constrain myself on selection entirely, but I know ideally what I’d like to have. His performances and his goalscoring form this season have counted for him.”

Defoe has 14 goals in 28 Premier League appearances for Sunderland this season, but he’s proved the Black Cats’ only threat as they sit bottom of the league table with 20 points. Defoe has become the center of opposition game plans, and as a result he’s slowed down, with just two goals in his last seven games, and the club has little else to pick up the slack.

Still, at 34 years old, many wonder how much longer Defoe can contribute, and if he’ll be a viable option for next year’s World Cup.

Group F gets messy as Slovakia and Scotland grab wins

Getty Images
Leave a comment

England is in control at the top of Group F, but below them things are beginning to get complicated.

Despite the absence of Marek Hamsik due to a last-minute injury, Slovakia defeated Malta 3-1. They took the lead just 97 seconds in as Vladimir Weiss put the visitors in front with a beautiful curling strike from outside the box. Malta struck back through domestic striker Jean Paul Farrugia in the 14th minute, but that was all Malta could muster.

Slovakia would go ahead just before halftime as FC Copenhagen midfielder Jan Gregus put them in front in the 41st minute. The speculative shot from Gregus came from a great distance out, and as it skipped across the ground, it appeared Malta goalkeeper Andrew Hogg saw it late, as his dive was poor and it skipped off his hands and in.

Both teams ended with 10 men on the field, as Farrugia was sent off with 16 minutes to go for a second yellow, and Adam Nemec saw the same fate in injury time, but before he was sent off, Nemec was there to kill the game off in the 84th minute.

That put Slovakia up to nine points, and it moved them into second place thanks to late drama in Glasgow. Chris Martin gave Scotland all three points with an 88th minute strike as the home side won 1-0 over Slovenia, who dropped from second to third with the loss. The Fulham striker got a beautiful feed through the back line from Stuart Armstrong, and while his shot wasn’t terribly accurate, it was enough to win the game as Slovenia goalkeeper Matus Kozacik gave it a poor effort.

The win for Scotland pulls them above Lithuania and into fourth, a point back of Slovenia in third.

Wasteful Poland snatches late 2-1 win at Montenegro

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Poland was in control for much of the game, but failed to finish in front of net until Borussia Dortmund full-back Lukasz Piszczek found the winner with eight minutes to go as the visitors increased their lead at the top of World Cup qualification Group E.

Robert Lewandowski put Poland in front five minutes before halftime with a brilliant free-kick that left Montenegran goalkeeper Mladen Blozovic completely baffled, but Montenegro looked sturdy at the back for much of the game and dangerous on the counter. They’d hit just past the hour mark as Stefan Mugosa headed in to level the score.

Lewandowski had a pair of massive chances in the second half, but couldn’t get either to go down as Blozovic was there to turn him away, and Montenegran defenders cleared off the line as well. Luckily for Poland, they had Piszczek who burst down the right to beat Aleksandar Sofranac, and he produced a stunning finish looped over the closing Blozovic from a tight angle, dinked off the far post, and into the back of the net.

That would do it for Montenegro who had little attacking ability outside of their countering abilities, and with Poland happy to ease out the clock, the hosts didn’t have enough.

The win pushes Poland six points clear at the top of Group E, a sizeable lead with five matches remaining. The battle for the second-place spot is tight, with Montenegro still in command on seven points, level with Denmark but ahead on goal differential. Armenia and Romania are even with six points each.