Forward Johnson hopes Europe comes calling

June 5, 2006

HAMBURG, Germany -- Striker Eddie Johnson says it is hard to be a professional soccer player in the United States, where the world's most popular sport is a poor cousin to American football, basketball and baseball.

The 22-year-old Kansas City Wizards forward wants to help the U.S. enjoy a long run at the World Cup but is also keen to put himself in the shop window so that, as he candidly admits, he might attract attention from the leading European clubs.

"I want to feel like a professional soccer player," Johnson told reporters at the U.S. team's base in Hamburg on Monday. "In the United States you don't because you've got basketball, football and baseball. Those sports just overpower us.

"I want to be in an environment where there's just soccer, where every training session is intense like a game, where the quality and expectations are high. I want to be around the best players in the world and I want to play in sold-out stadiums."

Johnson is one of Major League Soccer's top strikers but missed much of 2005 through injury and is struggling to regain the form he showed in late 2004 and early 2005 when he scored in each of his first four appearances for the U.S.

Dangerous when running at defences, Johnson has got nine goals in 18 appearances for Bruce Arena's team. He finished the World Cup qualifying campaign with seven goals in seven matches, the same number as playmaker Landon Donovan.

"My dream is to play in Europe. Hopefully, after the World Cup there will be more interest. I don't have anything against the MLS. My life is good. I'm not complaining. I'm blessed. But I want to be the best I can be. I want to go to Europe."

Johnson said he was not worried about becoming homesick and hopes to sign for a club inm England, France, Spain, the Netherlands or Germany in the near future.

"I want to deal with the pressures of Europe in an environment where soccer is huge and you have to be consistent every week," he said. "There's definitely some interest. If I have a good World Cup it would make everything a lot easier."