Sounders management Monday tried to downplay what could grow into a rift between the franchise and forward Eddie Johnson. His goal celebration in Columbus upset some fans.
They both want more money.
Manziel drew a 15-yard penalty and the ire of Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin for taunting opponents and giving the “pay me” gesture after throwing three second-half touchdowns Saturday against Rice.
Johnson scored too, his short-handed goal in the 15th minute of Saturday’s match against Columbus lifting the Sounders to a 1-0 win.
Then came the “pay me” gesture and a number of ensuing questions about whether Johnson was happy in Seattle. However, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid wasn’t upset.
“We’re going to try and see what we can do, and hopefully something will be worked out, and we can help that situation,” Schmid said Monday. “But other than that, unless it’s a distraction to the team, or I don’t think the player is putting the effort into the team, I’m not going to worry about it.”
Johnson’s effort during his second year in Seattle has resulted in impressive production: Seven goals in 16 matches. He set a single-season franchise record of 16 in 2012, after returning from a disastrous attempt at a career in the English Premier League. He played three seasons for Fulham (2008-11) but didn’t score.
The lack of success allowed the Sounders to sign Johnson for a bargain price. He responded by winning the 2012 MLS Comeback Player of the Year, but since Aug. 2, when Seattle signed midfielder Clint Dempsey — guaranteed to make $5,038,566.50, according to Sports Illustrated — Johnson’s attitude worsened and his play improved (three goals in the last four games).
Johnson is set to make $156,333.33 this season.
The U.S. Men’s National Team last week called Johnson, Dempsey and midfielder Brad Evans (won’t play after suffering a calf strain against Columbus) for two World Cup qualifier matches this week. The timing was probably for the best, considering Johnson spent his Saturday night on Twitter defending himself against Sounders fans.
Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer refused to join in the criticism Monday when asked about his suddenly malcontent leading-scorer.
“To me, it was nothing more than a little bit of emotion coming out,” Hanauer said. “Again, Eddie has earned some more money. We’ll work on that. He understands the salary cap issues and that it may not come as fast as he wants, but we’re working on it.”
The Sounders (40 points, 12-8-4) still have a game-in-hand over the rest of the league and have won five of their past six matches to jump to a season-best third in the Western Conference standings. They entertain last-place Chivas USA (22 points, 5-14-7) Wednesday night at CenturyLink Field without Johnson, Dempsey, Evans or D Leo Gonzalez, who was issued a red card for committing a clear-path foul against the Crew.
“It’s opportunity week for guys who are going to step up and play,” Schmid said following Tuesday’s short, rainy training session. “It’s also a game-in-hand game for us so we’ve talked a lot about that, a lot about the importance of getting three points, making use of our games in hand. It’s an important game for us.”