CHESTER, Pa. -- Eddie Johnson's astonishing comeback continued as he scored a stoppage-time, game-winning goal for the Major League Soccer All-Stars.
Johnson's late clincher against European champion Chelsea in a 3-2 victory was a dramatic exclamation point to what has been a stunning revitalization of his career since returning to MLS. His United States teammate Landon Donovan believes that he is now a better player than when he left for England in 2008.
"He's a much better player," Donovan said.
Donovan explained that Johnson's lack of confidence over the past few years resulted in him not being as aggressive as he was when he was in top form.
The LA Galaxy star also believes that Johnson, now 28 years old, is much more mature and focused than he was at a younger age. Whereas Johnson previously relied on his natural athleticism, Donovan believes the Seattle striker is a much more cerebral player now.
"For a while, it seemed like he lost a little bit of that confidence," Donovan said. "That ability to run at players, that's what he was always good at. He played a little bit tentative. Now, he's back to being aggressive but he's also matured in his decision making. It's a lot better."
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Donovan and Johnson were once considered to be the future of American soccer. In the 2006 World Cup in Germany, many expected that the pair to carry the United States to new heights in the competition. Both men didn't live up to the expectations placed as the Stars and Stripes failed to win a single game, exiting in the group stages.
Though Donovan returned to being arguably America's top soccer attraction after strong performances in the 2010 World Cup and winning a title with the Galaxy in 2011, Johnson hasn't had the same luck.
Bouncing from club to club in Europe, Johnson hasn't played with the United States since 2010. He revealed to Goal.com in June that he strongly considered retiring after the passing of his cousin. Still, EJ persisted with his career and Donovan gave him some advice.
"I told him that this [MLS] isn't the end," Donovan said.
Donovan and his All-Star teammate Jay DeMerit agree that one of the biggest factors in Johnson's return to form has been Seattle's head coach Sigi Schmid. The manager is known to be candid with his team and both players believe that his style of coaching has brought out the best in Johnson.
"We all know that he has this capability," Donovan said. "The goal for him is that he keeps on going. I know that Sigi, from talking to [Johnson], has done a great job of talking to him and keeping him grounded."
DeMerit added: "Credit to him for coming back, credit to Sigi and the people in Seattle for putting more confidence in him and playing him. Giving him the chance that he deserves. He's sharp and active. When Eddie Johnson does those things he's a good player."
If Johnson's incredible run of form continues, he might have another manager to deal with: Jurgen Klinsmann.