Skip to content

Eddie Johnson knows the chemistry will come as DC United looks for first points

Mar 28, 2014, 5:56 PM EDT

Johnson AP

EXCLUSIVE – DC United have picked up where they left off last season – at the bottom of Major League Soccer.

One of just two MLS clubs without a point thus far, the 2013 basement-dwellers were looking for goals, goals, and more goals when they signed Eddie Johnson to a Designated Player contract this offseason.

While he – or anyone else – has yet to score for DC, Johnson is adamant that early improvement from their first match to their second is promising enough to ease the players, even if it has yet to ease the fans.

“It’s hard to say ‘oh there’s positives things out of two losses,'” Johnson admitted, “but there’s actually some spells in the games where we got some good possession within the team and in the final third, and it’s just that final pass or two that’s not there right now.  But we know with due time that’s going to come, so that’s why we’re not panicking.”

In a vacuum, the two losses mean little in the big picture of a very long MLS season.  However, following the dreadful nature of last season, it’s hard for fans not to panic after the pair of disappointments: a 3-0 loss to Columbus at home to open the season followed by a narrow 1-0 defeat to Toronto.

(MORE: MLS Preview: Chicago Fire at DC United)

Johnson admitted building chemistry with his new teammates at the head of the DC attack has been harder than expected, especially with fellow newcomer Fabian Espindola, but not for the reasons one may think.

The Argentinian is a talented player in his own right, with MLS Cup experience as well as time with one of the biggest South American clubs in Boca Juniors.  For Johnson, working with a player who has many quality facets to his game has been tough to adjust to.

“It’s been a bit challenging because he’s a very good footballer and someone I very much admire, and I want to make the most of my opportunity in playing with him.  It’s been too bad in two games where things haven’t been clicking for us.

“For me, it’s about trying to figure out how I be effective when he drifts wide when it’s too congested in the final third up top when they really squeeze in and make the field small for us.  It’s how can I still be effective, and develop a communication with him and stay connected with him to give ourselves some real chances to be dangerous in front of the goal.  But we worked on that this week and we’re looking forward to seeing all the hard work we put in training this week trying to play that tomorrow against Chicago.”

Cutting off that connection between the two has been a point of emphasis for DC’s early-season opposition, and so far it’s worked.  Espindola has completed just 65% of his passes throughout his first two games.  While that’s not too uncommon for an attacking player, and it’s not terribly far off his last season percentage of 72%, it’s still not where DC will want his service to Johnson to be.

source: AP

Things haven’t gone swimmingly at DC United in their first two matches, but Johnson and the rest of the squad are putting in the hard work to turn it all around.

But with Chicago coming up at 4pm ET Saturday on NBCSN, it’s a golden opportunity for DC to get off the schneid.   The Fire have just two points through three matches in the young MLS season, and having seen them in preseason twice already earlier in the calendar year, Johnson is well aware of what they bring to the table.

“I’m familiar with their back four and their center backs.  I played with [Chicago defender Jhon Kennedy] Hurtado for two seasons in Seattle and I know what he likes and what he doesn’t like, so I’m going to try and play him and get him into positions he’s not comfortable with, and really going out there and putting them on our terms.”

And most of all, he wants to show the fans that last season is in the past.

“You go two games without scoring a goal or getting shots on goal and everyone starts to panic that the guys aren’t gelling and stuff.  But I feel like every game we’ve gotten better, and it’s just a matter of time that the ball starts bouncing our way.  Really, the focus is more on ourselves than the focus is on Chicago.”

With the focus on themselves, Johnson’s really enjoyed his time working with head coach Ben Olsen.  The pair have history, as teammates on the US National Team from Johnson’s debut in 2004 until Olsen’s retirement in 2007. Now, despite one standing as the boss, the two still share a similar relationship.

“Now playing under him as a coach, nothing has really changed from playing with him and his mentality is still the same.  He’s still a hard worker, he’s a winner at the end of the day, and those are the guys he wants in his team every weekend.  The results haven’t been great, but we know they’re going to come so the more we can stay positive and the more we can stay focused on trying to build and create the identity we’re trying to create here, the more successful we’re going to be.”

In addition to his new MLS venture, Johnson is also staring a chance at making his third World Cup in the face. However, as a more experienced player, he believes the two ventures of club and country to him are completely separate entities in his mind.

“If I was younger with no World Cup experience and never having been in this situation before, it would probably be eating me up through these two games not really having opportunities on goal to win games for my teams. But for me, with my experience and being in this situation for the third time now, it’s about taking it one game at a time and staying true to myself, what I believe in, and my abilities.  And if I’m honest with myself at the end of the day putting the work in week in and week out and I can look myself in the mirror and say hey, I’ve been doing all the right things, at the end of the day it’s up to the manager to pick whatever players he wants to see.”

So with the 29-year-old on the squad to take on Mexico next Wednesday, he knows not only is this a chance to earn a trip to Brazil this summer, but it’s also a chance to play Mexico – something that these players never take lightly.

source: Getty Images

Johnson is hoping to make his third World Cup, and has a chance to make yet another impression against Mexico in next week’s friendly.

“It’s not a friendly.  National team call-ups don’t come easy these days, and this is a very important game.  I think a lot of players are going to come into the camp fully focused, committed, and on top of their game, and they’re gonna leave it all out on the field and give themselves a real, real good chance at making the team.  And on top of that it’s our rivals, so any time we play against our rivals it’s about bragging rights and about showing who’s on top of CONCACAF.  [Mexico] are going to have a lot of hunger for revenge, and we’re looking forward to it.”

With making the national team a dream for just about every American-born player, Johnson got nostalgic for a moment when a former club of his was brought up.  As Fulham struggle in the bottom of the Premier League, Johnson hoped the team that gave him the opportunity to play in one of the biggest leagues in the world manages to stay up, just as he did with the Whites six years ago.

“I remember when I first went over in 2008, we were in the same situation at the bottom, and we survived,” said Johnson. “One thing I can say about everyone in that dressing room and organization is they’re fighters at the end of the day, and they’re going to do everything they can to stay up.  So I’m praying for them, I wish them all the best, and they gave me the opportunity to go over and make my dreams of playing in the Premiership come true and I’m forever grateful for that.”

So as DC United look to pick themselves up in the midst of a 14-match winless streak dating back to last year, one thing is for certain: their newly signed forward has the experience and work ethic to get them out of it.  If anyone can scrape DC United off the bottom of the standings, it’s Eddie Johnson.  He just needs a little help from his friends.

Latest Posts
  1. Jose Mourinho issues injury update on Diego Costa ahead of Chelsea’s season opener

    Aug 5, 2015, 7:58 AM EDT

    Swansea City v Chelsea - Premier League Getty Images

    Chelsea’s boss admits he “cannot reassure” fans over Costa’s fitness.

  2. Reports: RBNY adds young Argentine DP as MLS transfer surge continues

    Aug 4, 2015, 9:33 PM EDT

    MARRAKECH, MOROCCO - DECEMBER 17: Gonzalo Veron (L) of San Lorenzo in action with Ivan Vicelich of Auckland City during the FIFA Club World Cup Semi Final match between CA San Lorenzo and Auckland City FC at Marrakech Stadium on December 17, 2014 in Marrakech, Morocco. (Photo by Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images) Getty Images

    A winger, Veron scored eight times in 52 appearances for Argentine power San Lorenzo.

  3. Cascadia Cup banter between Sounders, Timbers hits toilet levels; Seattle avoids “Peay” joke

    Aug 4, 2015, 9:09 PM EDT

    Dempsey AP

    Full marks to the Sounders for not pointing out that Portland has a player named Peay.

  4. Reports: Mexico meets with Marseille coach Bielsa; Is this El Tri’s next boss?

    Aug 4, 2015, 8:05 PM EDT

    Marseille's Argentinian head coach Marcelo Bielsa looks on during the French Ligue 1 football  match between Lille and Marseille on May 16, 2015 at the Pierre Mauroy stadium in Lille, northern France. AFP PHOTO /  DENIS CHARLET        (Photo credit should read DENIS CHARLET/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    L’Equipe says FMF representatives met with Bielsa’s people on Tuesday morning and France, and that Bielsa is interested.

  5. Qatari foreign minister promises “best World Cup” ever, says human rights changes will come

    Aug 4, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT

    Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah gives a press conference following his meeting with his Tunisian counterpart, Taieb Baccouche, in Tunis on June 4, 2015. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAID        (Photo credit should read FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The “end of the year” promise could be the real deal, but the nation has certainly taken its time.

  6. PST Extra: Who are the Premier League’s top offseason acquisitions so far? (video)

    Aug 4, 2015, 6:22 PM EDT

    Andre Ayew of Swansea City Getty Images

    The transfer window hasn’t closed, but a lot of the names who’ve climbed through it have us salivating for Saturday’s start to the Premier League season.

  7. Benitez expects Bale and Benzema to stay at the Bernabeu

    Aug 4, 2015, 5:33 PM EDT

    <> at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 5, 2015 in Madrid, Spain. Getty Images

    Keeping Bale and Benzema around will keep Madrid among the favorites for the UEFA Champions League, as the giants search for Undecima.

  8. Premier League defenders: Who’s in our Top Five? And how to choose just five?

    Aug 4, 2015, 4:47 PM EDT

    Everton v Tottenham Hotspur - Barclays Premier League Getty Images

    Picking a group of five defenders is way more difficult than selecting the best goalkeepers in the league.

  9. On the move again: McInerney shipped to Columbus for a draft pick

    Aug 4, 2015, 4:13 PM EDT

    TORONTO, ON- MAY 13  - Toronto FC defender Eriq Zavaleta undresses Jack McInerney as Toronto FC plays Montreal Impact in the Semi-Final of the Amway Canadian Championship  at BMO Field  in Toronto.  May 13, 2015.        (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images) Getty Images

    McInerney, however, has disappointed in recent seasons. Perhaps a change in leader, albeit for the second time, will help.

  10. Report: Manchester City sells Edin Dzeko to AS Roma for $21 million

    Aug 4, 2015, 3:19 PM EDT

    Manchester City v Sunderland - Barclays Asia Trophy Final Getty Images

    At Roma, Dzeko will join a loaded attack which includes Mattia Destro, Victor Ibarbo and Seydou Doumbia, as well as Francesco Totti.

  11. Maps, rivals, stadiums: Location of all 20 Premier League teams for 2015-16 season

    Aug 4, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT

    Aerial Views Of Central London Getty Images

    Ever wonder where the games you’re watching on TV are taking place? Here’s a guide to help you out.

  12. CONCACAF Champions League returns: Five MLS teams eye continental glory

    Aug 4, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT

    CONCACAF Champions League Final - 2nd Leg - Club America v Montreal Impact CONCACAF Champions League Final - 2nd Leg - Club America v Montreal Impact

    D.C. United, LA Galaxy, RSL, Vancouver and Seattle fly the MLS flag as they look to break Liga MX’s stronghold.

  13. A televised coin flip will decide which team hosts the 2015 U.S. Open Cup final

    Aug 4, 2015, 12:50 PM EDT

    US Open Cup trophy Getty Images

    This coin toss is a really, really big deal for the four teams left in the competition.

  14. On his way out of PSG, should Arsenal or Manchester United sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic?

    Aug 4, 2015, 12:20 PM EDT

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic AP

    Should a PL giant hand Zlatan a chance to strut his stuff in England’s top-flight?

  15. Jose Mourinho praises Chelsea’s Premier League title rivals, talks Abramovich

    Aug 4, 2015, 10:24 AM EDT

    Crystal Palace v Chelsea Getty Images

    Blues boss hugely complimentary of the PL’s other big boys heading into the new season.

  16. VIDEO: Watch Men In Blazers’ season premiere in full, featuring “The 2 Robbies”

    Aug 4, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    MIB with the 2 Robbies

    Rog, Davo, Mustoe and Earle hang out in the panic room and preview the upcoming PL season.

  17. AZ Alkmaar agree to sell USMNT forward Aron Johannsson to Werder Bremen

    Aug 4, 2015, 7:45 AM EDT

    Dutch Eredivisie - "AZ Alkmaar v Vitesse Arnhem" Getty Images

    Dutch club reach “agreement in outline” with Bundesliga side Bremen for AJ.

  18. Reports: Manchester United submitted two bids for Gareth Bale over $110 million

    Aug 3, 2015, 9:28 PM EDT

    Bale Getty Images

    Apparently Louis van Gaal really, really wants Gareth Bale on his team.

Featured video

Top 5 new guys in the Premier League