By Matthew Braine
Florida-native Eddie Johnson has played 28 games in English football since arriving at Fulham last season. His stint with the London outfit was brief and mostly disappointing as he failed to make any kind of impact and often looked lost with the ball at his feet. A loan to Championship club Cardiff City during the summer had revival written all over it, however, Johnson stumbled through his first 21 appearances with his new team, providing zero goals and just a pair of assists, delivering a good dosage of lackluster performances.
Nevertheless, something special happened on Tuesday. Johnson, in just his sixth start of the season, found his happy place. The former Kansas City Wizard was like a man possessed, threading beautiful passes and making impressive runs throughout the day. First, after Joe Ledley gave the home side a 1-0 lead, Peter Whittingham flashed a ball into the box which Johnson barely missed after making a solid run. The striker nearly got a header on target later in the half but was crowded by defenders, forcing his effort wide of the net. All of the American’s spunk must have got the better of him, as he was booked for a handball in the 36th minute. Michael Chopra doubled the lead just before halftime and shortly after the restart Johnson nearly won a penalty after being tripped up in the box, but it would have been harsh on the defender and was rightfully not given by referee Pat Miller. Johnson capped off his gritty performance with a nifty assist to Peter Whittingham, who put in the Bluebirds third goal of the contest just before stoppage time in the 89th minute. Unbelievably, it was the first time Cardiff had tallied a third goal all season, and how fitting for that odd streak to coincide with Johnson’s breakout day.
Tuesday’s performance earned Johnson Man of the Match honors and, with Cardiff in playoff position, there is a good chance that Johnson will be playing in the Premiership next season with the Bluebirds and not Fulham. Johnson was quoted on WalesOnline.co.uk saying, “This squad can take Cardiff City to the Premier League, we all believe that. We prepare thoroughly for every match and we can go to the Premier League. Without a doubt.”
The sudden move to the bench for star striker Ross McCormack certainly opened up the door for Johnson but that move doesn’t seem to be permanent as McCormack had started nearly every game up to that point. However, despite McCormack’s 14 goals this season, the striker hasn’t tallied since late January and may have run out of gas during his first full season in English football. Another opportunity for Johnson that may have opened up during Tuesday’s match was the injury that Michael Chopra suffered. The club’s third leading scorer limped off in the 70th minute and could spell more time for Johnson.
Cardiff is in the middle of a fantastic run having gone 14 out of 15 unbeaten. The Bluebirds also find themselves just six points behind Reading for second place in the Championship. The squad takes on Doncaster Rovers Saturday, a club embedded within the middle of the league. Hopefully, the 24-year-old striker can back up his landmark performance this weekend and give the supporters the real Eddie Johnson for the rest of the campaign.
Matthew Braine's feature "Americans in the UK" appears every Monday on Goal.com. He can be reached at email@example.com