giovedì 14 agosto 2014

Is Eddie Johnson the MLS version of Balotelli?

Eddie Johnson’s controversial use of social media to respond to some harsh criticism is the latest example of his off field antics. Johnson, one of the best talents produced by American soccer, has a history of being scrutinized since he joined MLS in 2001 as a gifted underaged footballer. The problem is that throughout his career, Johnson has failed to professionally manage the spotlight surrounding him. Dealing with the media’ s hype is part of a player’s job. That’s professional sports. Johnson is one the bigger name Americans in MLS circles and it is virtually impossible to not look at his behavior, both on and off the field. This week’s event of the ball being kicked into Real Salt Lake's Carlos Salcedo after fouling the RSL defender has just been the latest controversy involving Johnson. He came to DC United after he became persona-non-grata in Seattle, following last season’s well known “pay me” incident after scoring a goal in Columbus. His use of social media is also questionable as he was already involved in another clash via twitter with his former USMNT teammate Brian Ching. Altercations and controversial celebrations has gained Johnson some negative feelings during his whole career. “I had a couple of incidents too in Seattle. I am a real emotional person,” was Johnson’s explanation for his bad attitude. I think this is just an excuse. Johnson’s antics now have him looking like MLS’ Mario Balotelli. Like the Italian international, Johnson built an off field profile that transcended his performances on the field, where he has only showed flashes of his quality. It doesn’t mean he has not had moments of brilliance, such as setting a franchise record in Seattle with 14 goals in 2012, or as he has shown with the USMNT, but this quality has proven to be inconsistent. And his behavior is a big point against him. There is a general perception that a troublesome situation is brewing sooner or later with Johnson at your club. He also never produced with regularity. He’s still far from becoming the week in, week out game changer he showed glimpses of when he dressed for the red and white hoops of FC Dallas following the 2001 MLS SuperDraft, or his breakout 2007 season with Kansas City. His struggles on the field and his psyche also contributed to keep him out of the USMNT squad for the World Cup in Brazil. The way EJ has been misperceived quickly became an issue. Johnson’s background can just partially justify his troubles. The recurring theme in the Johnson case was he is a poor kid grew up in a bad neighborhood. Surely that contributed. However, many American athletes grew up in rough areas and carried themselves with exemplary behaviour throughout their careers. Added, Johnson is no longer a kid. He is an adult, and professional athlete as well. At 30-years old, EJ still raises doubts about his maturity and motivation.

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