By now, you've heard the rumor that the Seattle Sounders are taking offers for Eddie Johnson. On one hand, this seems a little crazy. Johnson has led the Sounders in scoring each of the past two seasons, scoring 36 goals for club and country, and all but punched his ticket to Brazil with the United States national team. He's also 29 years old and seems to have plenty of good years left in his body.
So why are the Sounders willing to part ways with such a seemingly hot commodity? Money, mostly. Johnson has been quite vocal with his desire to get a raise from the roughly $150,000 he made this year and the Sounders appear to be up against the salary cap again. Of course, money isn't the only issue. If it were just money, the Sounders could surely figure out a way to keep Johnson, but there are ... other things.
For one, the way Johnson made his desire for a raise so public was obviously far from ideal. He also seemed to clash with coaches and teammates at times, which is obviously less than ideal.
But rest assured, there are teams -- yes, teams -- interested in Johnson. Proven MLS goal-scorers with realistic World Cup aspirations on the right side of 30 don't exactly grow on trees, all the other issues be damned.
The right team will have some salary cap space and probably be willing to make Johnson a Designated Player. They'll also have some allocation money they can send the Sounders' way, as that's probably the primary thing they'll be looking for in return. Bonus points are given to teams in the Eastern Conference -- the Sounders would surely prefer to avoid having to play Johnson three times a year -- and for teams that might be willing to part with young, relatively inexpensive talent.
Who wants Johnson? Basically any team that needs goals.
The top candidates:
No team scored fewer goals or has more allocation money than the Black and Red, who pulled the rather audacious double of qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League and failing to make the MLS Cup playoffs. The rumor is that netted them somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000 in allocation. I'm guessing it would probably take about half of that to pry away Johnson, but they also have the top spot in the allocation order and the No. 1 pick in the MLS SuperDraft as trade chips. They also have some interesting young talent, although it's hard to see them parting with anyone the Sounders would actually want.
The one exception might be Chris Pontius, who followed up his 12-goal campaign in 2012 by scoring two goals in 2013. Thing is, he's due to make about $400,000 next year and it's hard to see the Sounders unloading Johnson just so they can take someone who's salary-cap hit is virtually the same (assuming Johnson becomes a DP). Ben Olsen is also a former teammate of Johnson's, which may or may not be a good thing.
No team other than D.C. United scored fewer goals or has more allocation money than the Reds. Although they didn't qualify for CCL, they are the recipient of MLS's "you suck" allocation money and they also got a nice chunk when they sent Luis Silva to DC. Johnson doesn't quite fit TFC's DP mold, in that he's not a splashy European, but maybe that's a good thing. Other than Dwayne De Rosario, TFC has never really had a proven MLS goal scorer and Ryan Nelsen might just be the kind of coach who can really get the best out of Johnson. Aside from allocation, there's not a lot they have to offer as they don't even have a first-round draft pick. The most interesting potentially tradable player on their roster might be Kyle Bekker, who found himself in Nelsen's doghouse after being the No. 3 overall pick.
Scoring goals was not necessarily a huge problem for the Union, but it's not hard to see Johnson and Jack McInerney making a very nice pairing. Conor Casey filled that role admirably last year, scoring 10 goals 2,201 minutes, but he's going to be 34 next season and a repeat performance doesn't seem likely. They do have some allocation from missing the playoffs, but there's no one really on their roster that is both expendable and desirable. Maybe Casey and allocation for Johnson? That said, it's virtually impossible to see Johnson getting along with John Hackworth.
Not the most obvious destination, but it might make some sense. With Juan Agudelo not coming back, there's going to be some kind of hole up top and Johnson could be the perfect guy to fill it. One way or another, the Revs probably need to bring in a big-bodied forward to help take some of the pressure off their midfield. Trouble is, they don't have a ton of non-player trade chips as they fell into the dreaded donut hole of making the playoffs and missing out on CCL. The Sounders would love to take Seattle-area native Kelyn Rowe off New England's hands, but it's virtually impossible to see them parting ways with a 22-year-old coming off a seven-goal, eight-assist season.
This probably sounds crazy and it probably is, but if the Sounders trade Johnson in the Western Conference this might be the one place they'd be willing to send him. The reason? FC Dallas has a player that might just fill the Sounders' most glaring need, who also might be deemed expendable: George John. The center back was limited to 24 games this year and plays a position where FC Dallas is pretty stacked. He's also their most expensive defender, which could prompt a new coach to want to unload him. John also happens to be a Seattle-area native and his family has Sounders season tickets.
But would Johnson make sense for FC Dallas? It depends. Blas Perez seems to have forward pretty well locked down, but Johnson has actually looked pretty good as a wide midfielder and could absolutely fit in nicely there. We also know that Fernando Clavijo is not shy about acquiring forwards.