In Bob Bradley’s search for Jozy Altidore’s strike partner now that Charlie Davis is unfortunately out for six months or more recovering from that horrific car crash.
Johnson has always been an enigma. Great promise and an ability to get behind defenses with his speed. His was a blazing start with the MNT as he scored 7 goals in the 2006 World Cup qualifiers including a goal on debut against El Salvador and a hat trick three days later against Panama.
He was unable to do much in the World Cup and since his move from
RSL Kansas City to the Premiership his career has cooled off precipitously. He has struggled to make appearances in Fulham and with few club opportunities his national call ups have become rarer. His last match was against Barbados on June 22, 2008.
Johnson is a rangy, straight up and down type of center forward unlike the more versatile, powerful Charlie Davis who loves roving down the left and creating chances for his team mates. For Johnson to score, he has to get a clear long ball or a pass as a direct route to the goal. Davis is far more elusive. Conor Casey also introduces the same redundancy as Johnson.
The more promising Jeff Cunningham who is an equally adept goal provider has a few knocks going against him. He is a bit on the wrong side of 30 and despite his stellar MLS career has yet to score for the national team in 10 appearances. He has bounced around quite a bit after his six years at the Crew giving his career an unsettled look.
Much has to do with attitude and adjustment issues. Wearing a jersey with 96 emblazoned on it for 96 goals scored should be a quick giveaway. He came to Toronto with great expectations but wore out his welcome quickly with coach John Carver. After failing to put the ball into an empty net which would have given TFC a win over Montreal in the Canadian Championship, Carver said, “You want my honest opinion on that? I am thinking, ‘How did he score 99 goals?’ That’s what I thought.”
He was traded soon after to Dallas. He has done extremely well there winning his second Golden Boot title with 17 goals and 8 assists. The second number is what one needs to focus on when we talk about strike partners for Altidore. A smaller, quicker, creative slot striker who can ping the ball back and forth to open up space will prove a perfect counterfoil to the more centrally situated Altidore who plays well with his back towards goal. Davis was the hidden assist man in the US team as Donovan got things moving.
Cunningham could turn things around in his favour very quickly if he gets playing minutes against Slovakia and turns in an impressive performance. He maybe ready to vindicate Bob Bradley’s confidence and shrug off those question marks about attitude and no shows.
Bradley should also seriously consider Robbie Findley who is having a whale of a time at RSL with 12 goals and 4 assists. He is focused on the Eastern Conference finals against the Fire but will become available after the season gets over.