Eddie Johnson found himself having to walk back some statements he made on Twitter following D.C. United's loss to Real Salt Lake over the weekend. He chalked it up to a rough and tumble upbringing in which he always had to stick up for himself. He acknowledged he has work to do on controlling his emotions. He pledged to get better.
Stop me if you think you've heard this one before.
Earlier this year, he apologized for comments that could gently be called unflattering to teammates. Last year, around this time in fact, Johnson found himself using similar reasoning to explain his infamous "pay me" celebration. By now, his reputation of engaging in full-blown meltdowns over social media is pretty well known.
On one hand, it doesn't take too much effort to see Johnson's side of things. He grew up poor and very much took the road less traveled on his way to becoming one of the country's top soccer talents. As a dark face in a very white youth soccer scene, he always stood out and understandably has a chip on his shoulder that he's never quite shaken.
That chip also seems to be what drives him, though. He's constantly talking about proving the doubters wrong and if that's what he needs to motivate himself, he'd hardly be the first professional athlete to do so.
But his behavior stands in stark contrast to the rest of the American soccer culture. It can be argued that's because it's still a sport that has its roots firmly planted in the suburbs, where the vast majority of the players have college educations and are reasonably well versed in interacting with the media.
As much as we can possibly understand why Johnson is the way he is, that doesn't make it any easier to be his teammate or a fan of his team. There's a long list of former teammates, front-office personnel and disaffected fans who will happily explain the two-sided coin that is Eddie Johnson's personality.
They'll tell you that he can be caring and nice one minute and brash and offensive the next. He'll publicly call out teammates and quietly show up to their house bearing gifts for their kids. He'll mope around the field and then rise above the defense to score the game-winning header. It's all part of the package.
It also makes sense that he's moved from team to team so often, having failed to spend more than two consecutive seasons wearing the shame shirt ever since he left FC Dallas. It's probably at least part of the reason why Jürgen Klinsmann left him off the World Cup squad, despite a pretty good on-field argument that he would have been useful.
That he's currently at D.C. United makes sense as well. United were coming off one of the worst seasons in MLS history and gambling on Johnson had an undeniable upside. Here was a USMNT-caliber player who could be relied upon to score at a decent clip and, at the very least, would draw the defense's attention. The trick was going to be making sure he didn't destroy the locker room at the same time.
To some degree, that gamble has paid off. On one hand, they've turned their season around in dramatic fashion. Even after a pair of disheartening losses -- which fed into Johnson's frustration -- they remain in the heat of a Supporters' Shield race that has tightened up considerably. Even though Johnson only has four goals and two assists, he's at least part of why United has already scored 10 more goals than they had all of last season.
But how long can this really last? Has Johnson really learned the lessons of previous blow-ups? It was shortly after his apology a year ago that the Sounders went into their epic dive that also featured several less widely reported Johnson explosions, let's remember. And if that wasn't enough to convince Johnson to clean up his act, is there any reason to think now is any different?
Johnson is a player for whom you want to root. His story is so good, he's overcome so many legitimate obstacles. And it should be said that for all his accused and admitted transgressions, none of them come close to being unforgivable. But he continues to show that he is his own worst enemy. It would be great to see him prove us wrong again, or at least figure out how best to use social media.