Many times on this site, I’ve bemoaned that fact that American internationals face hurdles to return to MLS when their career in Europe has either stagnated or are failing to provide them with growth opportunities. This year there has been a change for the better with players like Charlie Davies, Benny Feilhaber, and Freddy Adu (!) coming home from overseas to gain valuable playing time in the domestic league. So because of all these successes, the case of Eddie Johnson stands out as an absolute oddity.
Steve Goff at The Washington Post goes through the entire affair, but here is a quick summary: Johnson and his agent allegedly agreed to a contract with MLS this week and thus Johnson was subject to the allocation process. This is the same process by which the three aforementioned players landed on their current teams. MLS and Johnson found an unidentified team that had agreed to the salary conditions negotiated by the league, but in the past few hours Johnson pulled out of the agreement allegedly dissatisfied with the terms.
As Goff notes, Johnson could still sign with a team as a free agent but I would be shocked if that happened considering only one team wanted him through allocation. At age 27, he still has some good years ahead of him and it was not that long ago (2006) that he took the pitch for the U.S. in the World Cup. He’s scored over 50 career goals in all competitions in all leagues, which while not spectacular also isn’t bad. In his last season in MLS (2007) he scored 15 goals for Kansas City so he has shown he can play well in the league.
Yet only one team wanted to take a flier on him, despite the fact at least three of the top 10 teams in the most recent allocation order could use a striker. While salary was certainly a part of it (he would have cost over $200k against the cap) his time in England was less than impressive. Besides Los Angeles, teams are also beginning to seriously question older overseas players and focus more on younger, more affordable signings. It is probably not a coincidence, as Earl points out, that the new DP rules came out when they did.
Would you support your team signing Eddie Johnson? Is there a team that would be a good fit in MLS, or is his timing in coming back to the States wrong?