JOHNSON LEFT OUT

Sunderland’s Jozy Altidore, left, watches a shot toward goal past Aston Villa’s Antonio Luna, right, during an English Premier League soccer match in Sunderland, England. Altidore is one of the forwards for the U.S. Men’s National Team.

AP Photo/Scott Heppell, File

U.S. Men’s National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann selected a 30-man preliminary roster for the final training camp before next month’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and his surprise omission of forward Eddie Johnson had many folks miffed, especially me.

While justifying Johnson’s omission, the coach acknowledged the player’s invaluable contribution in qualifying the team; he said that he hadn’t forgotten the important goals Eddie Johnson scored while helping the team to qualify for the World Cup.

Klinsmann, in a conference call, added that other players had moved past Johnson on the U.S. forward depth chart, but where Klinsmann, a former German national player, erred is by using Johnson’s slow start this season with his new team, DC United, to make his final decision. Although Johnson has scored only a goal in eight games this season, the veteran forward is a proven scorer at the international level. His goals were crucial to the U.S. in qualifying, and I see no forward in the squad that has ‘moved past Johnson on the depth chart’ since those crucial goals a year ago.

Johnson’s slow start is understandable; traded in the off season from Seattle, where he was the leading scorer the past two seasons, the forward is with a new team put together during the off-season. Not only is he new to the players, but more than three-fourth of the team are new to each other as well.

Johnson isn’t the only U.S. player off to a slow start this year! Landon Donovan, whom Klinsmann says is picked as one of six forwards, which was one of the reasons for Johnson’s omission, missed the final round of qualifying and has not scored for the Los Angeles Galaxy this season. Except for a decent showing in last summer’s Gold cup, Donovan has been out of the loop. U.S. captain Clint Dempsey got very little playing time this past winter at his old club, Fulham FC, in England and only got in the scoring column recently with a very good Seattle Sounders team. Jozy Altidore has struggled for playing time at Sunderland FC in the England Premier League.

By using Johnson’s current slump, Klinsmann disregarded the players already proven goal-scoring ability at the international level. Player-slumps are a part of the game and are frequent when coaches and players change teams. Johnson’s overall contribution to the squad and his proven effectiveness at the international level should have garnered him a trip to Brazil. Brazilian Paulino had a torrid time at Tottenham Hotspurs in the English Premier League, but coach Phil Scolari knows Paulino as a proven international. Among the forwards selected, Terrence Boyd, Aron Johannsson and Chris Wondolowski have not played at Johnson’s level internationally.

“By putting these 30 players together, we just think that’s where we want to see them compete in (the) first place, that’s where we see them as a first option,” said Klinsmann. “That makes it maybe then difficult for a player like Eddie that you have to leave out. In Eddie’s case, it’s really, really difficult because he’s also a player that brings so much to the table and he’s done tremendously well with us over the last two years and scored very, very important goals for us and he can also play in the left wing and right wing. So, why Johnson?

The 30-man squad must be reduced to 23 by June 2. The squad: Goalkeepers Tim Howard, Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando. Defenders DaMarcus Beasley, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Tim Chandler, Brad Evans, Fabian Johnson and Clarence Goodson Michael Parkhurst and DeAndre Yedlin. The midfielders are Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, Maurice Edu, Brad Davis, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Julian Green, Mix Diskerud, Joe Corona and Graham Zusi. The forwards are Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Aron Johannsson, Chris Wondolowski and Terrence Boyd.

MLS ROUND-UP

In a wild and exciting game at Red Bull Arena last Saturday, the Chicago Fire defeated the New York Red Bull, 5-4, to get its first victory of the season. Rookie Harrison Shipp scored a hat trick for Chicago and so did Bradley Wright-Phillips for the Red Bulls. Sporting Kansas City knocked off Montreal Impact, 3-0; Chris Rolfe’s lone goal gave DC United a 1-0 win over Philadelphia, and Vancouver defeated Columbus by the same score. San Jose Earthquakes topped FC Dallas, 2-1 and the Los Angeles Galaxy and the Portland Timbers played to an exciting 1-1 draw; both goals came in injury time. The Colorado Rapids with new head coach Pablo Mastroeni keeps winning as it knocked off Chivas USA, 3-1; the New England Revolution walloped the Seattle Sounders, 5-0, and Real Salt Lake beat the Houston Dynamo, 5-2.

USA’s Eddie Johnson dribbles the ball during a World Cup qualifier soccer match between USA and Panama, last year in Seattle.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File

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