Saturday, June 21, 2008
American striker Eddie Johnson has had an eventful year as a soccer player. The 24 year-old Florida native left Major League Soccer in January to join several of his compatriots at English Premier League club Fulham.

Johnson has also been actively involved with the National Team this summer and he was on the scoresheet last weekend as The United States dismantled Barbados 8-0 in the first leg of their World Cup qualifying encounter.

Derby County was the first Premier League club to inquire about Johnson's services, but after the Rams' season of infamy Johnson is positive that the Cottagers were the ideal destination for his career.

"[Fulham] came after me the hardest which meant a lot," Johnson told Yanks Abroad. "The world class coaching staff and player they have at the club were a big selling point, not to mention being able to reconnect with the other American guys there."

Johnson's first season in the Premier League was one that epitomized the emotional roller coaster that England's top league provides on a week-in and week-out basis. The Cottagers survived the otherwise forgettable season courtesy of a 1-0 victory at FA Cup winners Portsmouth on the final day of the campaign.

"The pressure we faced during our relegation dogfight was enormous," Johnson said. "We went out on the [field] as if every game was a championship game for us and knew we could not lose."

"When your back is against the wall you can really see what you are made of."

Many soccer players relish the vacation time they receive once their club campaigns are over, but Johnson went to work immediately for the National Team to prove his worth to head coach Bob Bradley.

The competition for starting spots at the striker position will be fervent as the World Cup approaches and Johnson knows he must work diligently to retain his place in the starting lineup.

"I need to be consistent both on the field and in practice to remain a starter for Coach Bradley," the former Dallas and Kansas City man admits. "Whenever I get the opportunity I need to put the ball in the back of the net."

"Another factor to stay in the lineup for me is to be a player up top that the team can rely on, no matter how big the stage is."

Johnson did little to hurt his starting status last weekend as he was one of numerous Americans who found the back of the net against Barbados at the Home Depot Center. Johnson is hopeful that the goal will be the catalyst for a scoring streak with the National Team in the months to come.

"Soccer is sometimes a funny game in which you never know when streaks will start or end so you have to take every opportunity you have well."

The United States has already had an adventurous summer to date, as defeats against England and Spain in Europe were followed by a pulsating draw at home against top-ranked Argentina.

Inconsistency has always been a point of concern for the Americans and Johnson believes that playing professional soccer in Europe is the ideal way for Team USA to improve its overall level of play. "

In order to improve our consistency we need more players playing at the highest level overseas, playing firtt team ball," Johnson opined. "The pressure [of] playing in front of big crowds, being able to be mentally tough for 90 minutes all will help us against the top countries in the world."

Johnson will not be making the trip to Barbados as an illness has forced him to withdraw from the squad.

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