Eddie Johnson: Not Quite a World-Class Striker
The career of Eddie Johnson is quickly becoming an amazement to me.
His speedy rise to the US national team, and his recent move from the MLS to Fulham in the Premier League, is more than enough to cause one to sit up and take note.
But my amazement is not one of awe at his abilities or his performances. Instead my amazement is in the fact that he is continually selected for national team duty, and now has been brought in to play in one of the greatest football leagues in the world.
I will grant the fact that Mr. Johnson has played some good matches in the past. He has provided some moments of good play, and has scored some good goals. But in all the times I've watched him, I have not seen anything which warrants his continued presence on these high level teams.
As I said before, he has his moments of good play. But there are simply too many flaws and gaps in his game at present to keep him in the starting rotation.
Aside from his few moments of good play, which seem to be becoming fewer and fewer as his career progresses, Mr. Johnson seems to contribute very little to his side.
He often makes runs out to the wings, which is not necessarily a bad thing for a forward; but once he gets out there, he does very little with the ball, and rarely gets off a cross, much less a quality one.
He also has a tendency to disappear for large portions of a match contributing very little to the run of play, neither with ball nor with runs.
As I am a follower of Manchester United, my main concern is not his presence at Fulham. I am surprised that an English club has decided to put stock in him. But Fulham is not exactly playing some of the greatest football at the moment, so the level of play hasn't quite passed him by yet.
And seeing as Fulham stand poised to be relegated from the Premier League, perhaps it was a good move acquiring the American striker: he can most likely contribute regularly against Championship teams.
But should Fulham find itself promoted back to the EPL at the end of next season, I believe it would be time for the team to part ways with him. As it stands now he simply does not possess the level of play to be a regular contributor for a contending Premier League side.
The defenses of teams such as Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool would make mince meat of Mr. Johnson.
My real concern with Mr. Johnson is his continued selection as a starter for the United States national team.
I am totally on board with coach Bob Bradley, and have been impressed with the team he has been able to put forth in his time in charge. The team appears to be improving individually and collectively each time it goes out, and I am excited to see where his leadership will take us in the future.
But I am baffled as to why he continually plays Mr. Johnson in these major international matches. Perhaps Mr. Bradley sees something in Mr. Johnson's game, a shining light of potential just waiting to burst forth.
As for me, I don't see it.
The level of play in high-level international matches does not allow for strikers to disappear for large portions of the game. If the United States wishes to continue its growth as a soccer power globally, we will require much more from our strikers.
We need top-shelf attackers who can orchestrate and finish scoring opportunities on a regular basis. Otherwise, we will assuredly remain in the wings of the world football stage, never seriously contending for hardware outside of CONCACAF.
Surely, among the 300 million citizens of our country, there is another player who can contribute more than Mr. Johnson is right now. I find it hard to believe that among the American players available for National Team duty, he is among the top three or four strikers.
I do not say all this merely to bash the name of a footballer. No doubt Mr. Johnson prepares himself adequately, and gives his all in pursuit of football glory. He simply does not seem to possess the level of talent which is required of international and EPL players.
I do not find fault with him because he cannot perform consistently at this level, as that is a most daunting task. But football is not about sentimentality nor charity.
In order to be the best in the world, managers must select the 11 who best give their side a chance at victory. And in my opinion, for the United States national team, Eddie Johnson is not one of those 11.
Maybe I am wrong. Maybe he will become a great star for Fulham, and do great things for the national team in its pursuit of a World Cup.
Maybe I will one day be writing a rebuttal to my own argument, rightfully eating my own words. But those days do not seem to be coming.
And at the very least, they don't seem to be coming soon enough to help the United States reach its goal of international football glory.
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