Eddie Johnson's road to return to the U.S. national team has been an unconventional one, but head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has defended his decision to recall the striker to the American squad.
The 28-year-old has not played for the United States since 2010 and last appeared in an international tournament in 2007 after struggling to make a mark in Europe. He left MLS for Fulham in 2008, but never scored with the Cottagers and was sent on loan to Cardiff City, Aris and Preston North End during his stint overseas before returning to the United States this winter. He has impressed in MLS this year, leading the playoff-bound Seattle Sounders with 14 goals in 26 appearances.
Johnson also scored the winning goal for the MLS All-Stars against UEFA Champions League winner Chelsea in July.
"I spoke many times over the last couple months with [Sounders head coach] Sigi [Schmid] and I think Sigi has done a tremendous job with him," Klinsmann told reporters on Monday. "I think Eddie is back into that position, because he worked very hard for it."
"Watch his games and you see his drive and hunger that he has, the way he chases defenders, the way he creates chances for himself and his striking partners and the way he also finishes things off."
The former Germany international highlighted the experiences, both good and bad, that have shaped Johnson.
"He’s not a newcomer," Klinsmann said. "He’s been a part of the program over the last 10 years or so. He had difficult times. He struggled in Europe, and Sigi found a way to get him back on track. That’s exciting to see. I think this camp has opened the door for him. We’re curious to see him in the middle with his old buddies. I think he really deserved the call.”
Klinsmann is the third national team coach to select Johnson. The striker made his debut for Bruce Arena in 2004, and he also played under Bob Bradley.
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