You Hear about EJ, that New Tech Stock?

Parties, concerned and those with only a professional interest, are referring to Eddie “EJ” Johnson as all but gone from Major League Soccer (MLS) as well as Kansas City metro area. WVHooligan even speaks of a transfer fee that will “put…to shame” the money England’s Fulham FC paid to hire Clint Dempsey – and, coincidentally, Fulham is one of the clubs in the hunt (there’s plenty of general transfer talk behind that WVHooligan link, so do check that out).

The specific figure WVHooligan cites is $6-7 million. That’s not a lot for a quality striker in the European game, but it could be more than too much for a player like Johnson.

Consider the current state of the conventional wisdom on the man: a fairly generous interpretation would dub him “streaky,” but his numbers across seven MLS seasons could just as easily be read as him having only two good years out of seven; if there’s such a thing as a “big-occasion player” EJ ‘s play at club and country level puts him closer to antonym than synonym; while it’s true that he scored 15 goals in his most recent, “renaissance” season, six of those came in two games, which leaves 9 goals spread across the remaining 28 games; his total haul across those seven years is 41 goals in league play. And that, my friends, is in MLS – not the EPL where Johnson will, presumably, have less time to think/react and against better players.

The issue goes deeper than numbers, however. The most persistent mental images I can conjure of Johnson playing are: 1) of him struggling to get the ball up to his speed as he bolts toward goal with defenders closing on him; 2) of him receiving the ball on the flank, where he either a) gets the ball picked clean when he pushes it too far in front of him, or, b) him dropping the ball back to the midfielder/defender coming up the wing; 3) of him checking back and mis-hitting a fairly simple possession pass. These are not the habits, decisions, and tools of even a 10-goal-a-year forward. Even if EJ draws something closer to Dempsey’s fee ($4 million), that’s not such a swell return.

So, no, I’m not high on EJ’s chances abroad. Still, best of luck to him – assuming he goes – and the team who signs him. He’s got more athletic ability than most will ever know and he seems to know what he wants to do out there. Maybe he’s just a project and will respond to the right kind of training/education. Nothing would make me happier than a productive, happy EJ who reaches his potential; any national team fan would be crazy to want anything else. But, given the past seven years of watching him play, the idea that some English (or Portuguese) team is about to get saddled with the soccer-playing equivalent of stock options from a late 1990s internet start-up seems a bit closer to reality.

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One Response

  1. I hope Johnson is ready to play in the Coca-Cola Championship next season, unless Derby goes undefeated until the end of the season.

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