Team U.S.A. Strikes Gold with Eddie Johnson

When Major League Soccer star Eddie Johnson turns 21 on March 31, he will already have eight appearances for the United States under his belt and will be one of the youngest members of the World Cup Qualifying squad. Johnson, despite his age, is quickly becoming one of the more popular players in Major League Soccer.

Since making his national debut in October of last year, Johnson has catapulted himself into the mainframe of the world soccer scene. His on-the-ball speed, knack for goal scoring and humble beginnings are intriguing elements that make the young Dallas Burn striker a fan favorite. In addition, Johnson scored six goals in his first four matches for the national team. No American had ever scored in his first four national games.

Johnson grew up in Bunnell, Tex. and according to www.ussoccerplayers.com used the sport to get away from gangs and drugs in his neighborhood. He was a late starter in the sport but learned quickly. He was drafted by Major League Soccer’s Dallas Burn at age 16 and after three inconsistent seasons, had a breakout season for his club side last year. He subsequently shared the league-lead for goals last year with 12.

Getting an opportunity to play for the national side was a huge incentive for the young striker and after scoring in his first match against El Salvador, he managed to put together a brilliant hat trick in his second match. His three-goal flurry against Panama happened in a 17-minute span.

Thus far, in 2006 World Cup Qualifying action, Johnson has scored three goals in three matches and has been the major force up front for the Americans. His last goal came on Sunday when U.S.A. lost a close 2-1 at the hands of the Mexicans in Mexico City in front of 100,000 fans.

“You can see that he has talent,” explained Howard University soccer player Brian Gillison. “They lost to a good Mexican team, but having him at striker makes a difference. The team actually looked dangerous today.”

His superb talent and instant success in the international game has already had an impact on his career, as 33-time Portuguese champions Benfica made a bid for Johnson and offered Major League Soccer a $5 million transfer fee for the striker. The opportunity came in January, during the European transfer season. However, M.L.S. optioned out of the deal and decided to keep one of the country’s best young talents playing on the American circuit. F.C. Dallas will benefit from the return of the league’s most prolific goal scorer.

Johnson, nonetheless, has remained very level-headed about his success and was quoted on www.ussoccerplayers.com as saying,

“Everything hasn’t hit me yet, and I hope it doesn’t hit me,” he said.

“I just want to keep playing, not worry about what I’ve done already. There’s always the next game.”

Johnson’s next game is today when the United States takes on Guatemala in a home qualifier at Legions Field in Birmingham, Ala.