Seattle Sounders FC forward Eddie Johnson thinks he deserves more money, and his club agrees.
Johnson went public with his desire Saturday, when he followed his game-winning goal at Columbus by running to the touch line, rubbing his fingers and thumb together, and repeatedly mouthing the words, “Pay me.”
Johnson left the next day to join the U.S. national team and has not commented directly on the issue.
However, as the Sounders returned to training Monday, general manager Adrian Hanauer and coach Sigi Schmid each agreed that Johnson deserves a raise, that his play has been exceptional and that he has not become a distraction in the locker room.
“I’ve said it before: Eddie is underpaid at this point, and we’ll address that behind closed doors,” Hanauer said. “For me, as long as those sorts of things aren’t getting in the way of us winning a championship, I could really care less. When it becomes a distraction to the team, then it’s an issue with me. But for now, we picked up a great win. Eddie was a huge part of it. He was great with his teammates, so for me, it’s not an issue.”
Johnson joined the Sounders last season in a trade with Montreal, and he set a club record with 14 goals. This season, he has seven goals and is tied for the team lead with Obafemi Martins.
Johnson makes $156,333 in guaranteed compensation this season, a figure that has been dwarfed by the recent designated player signings of Clint Dempsey ($5 million) and Martins ($1.7 million).
“In this league, with the salary cap, you’ve got players who are overpaid and underpaid,” Schmid said. “(Johnson is) playing well. He’s working hard for us. He was engaged in the game. It didn’t take away from his engagement in the game. Even when I subbed him out, he was fully committed to the team, and he was as happy as anybody when we won. He was animated and fully involved in the game, and that’s what I’m looking for in a player.”
Hanauer said he hopes to be able to increase Johnson’s pay without gutting the core of the current team, which has climbed to third in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference and will take a 12-8-4 record into Wednesday’s match against Chivas USA at CenturyLink Field.
“I don’t want to get into who’s coming, who’s going,” Hanauer said. “We’re working with Eddie to get him more money. Our objective is to win championships. That means keeping as many good players around as possible.”
Brad Evans, who suffered a calf strain at Columbus, returned home with the club instead of joining the U.S. national team. Schmid had no timetable for when Evans might be ready for full training or games. With Johnson and Dempsey away with the national team, Schmid expressed hope that Martins (ankle) will be able to return Wednesday. Midfielder Steve Zakuani (sports hernia) has increased his work in training, but neither he nor the team had a timetable for his return. Schmid said he hopes Zakuani will be able to contribute this season.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org/soccer