Chester, PA – Seattle Sounders FC striker Eddie Johnson was candid about his career last week at PPL Park, admitting after a practice for the MLS All-Star Game "it's taken me awhile" to mature.
"But thank God I've figured it out," Johnson said. "Some people don't figure it out at all."
Johnson, only 28, has been a professional for well over a decade. He debuted as a teenager in 2001 for the Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas), and within years, was a rising star on the international level for the United States.
He scored in his international debut against El Salvador in 2004 and added a hat trick days later against Panama in qualifying for the 2006 World Cup. And from his debut until the end of 2007, Johnson played 31 games, including two in the 2006 World Cup, for the United States.
Johnson went from an MLS commodity to a highly-prized asset in Europe, where he finally landed in 2008 with Fulham. Although harsh to label his stint for Fulham a disaster, it was certainly a humbling experience.
He played for Fulham, but spent the majority of his time on loan at Cardiff City and Preston North End, both lower-tier English clubs, and Greece squad Aris.
As his star power diminished, so did his role with the United States. From a high of 11 games played in both 2006 and 2007 for the Americans, he appeared in just two games in 2009, three in 2010 and zero in 2011.
Johnson came full circle earlier this year when he signed with the Sounders to return to MLS.
Although Johnson did not know Seattle coach Sigi Schmid well when he signed, the pair had a conversation about "being on the same page and being true. Me believing in him, and him believing in me," Johnson said.
Johnson has repaid the faith of Schimd with nine goals this season, six off his career-high 15 set with Kansas City in 2007 - his last season in MLS. Add the winning goal in the All-Star Game, a 91st-minute strike against Chelsea, and Johnson has left no doubt about his offensive ability.
Johnson admitted he wanted to prove to himself he could "still compete with the top strikers in the country."
There is still a bigger mission to accomplish: winning titles.
"When you're younger as a professional, it's all about individual goals. As you get older, you start to mature and you start to get it," Johnson said. "Some people mature faster than others, it's taken me a while. As a player, you want to leave some type of legacy. I want to win as much as I can with Seattle."
In his first season with Seattle, Johnson has three titles in sight.
Seattle has already advanced to the U.S. Open Cup final. Sounders FC has won the last three at home, but will visit Sporting Kansas City on Aug. 8 in its quest for a fourth straight crown.
In MLS, Seattle is third in the Western Conference and in position to return to the playoffs for the fourth time in as many seasons in the league.
And Seattle begins its pursuit of arguably the most coveted trophy, the CONCACAF Champions League, on Thursday against Caledonia from Trinidad & Tobago.
"This is my first time through this," Johnson said, "but I've been through (World Cup) qualifiers, and I know the expectations and the challenges. These earlier stages can be very tricky.
"Sometimes you go to a different country and the pitches aren't as nice, the facilities aren't as nice. Each team's always trying to use an advantage to make their team successful."
Johnson has already enjoyed a solid career, but the missing titles would add an element he believed would make a lasting difference.
"When you're done playing, everybody forgets about you. But you can always go back and say I was a part of this team," Johnson said.
Johnson talked about athletes who have enjoyed good, even great careers, but never won championships in various sports. He does not want to be in the same category when his career if finally over.
"You don't want to be that guy, because when all the money's gone, you want to look back at something you've achieved with a team," he said, "and you can say you've been a part of that, you know what it felt like, and you know what that moment was like."