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Originally published Monday, October 8, 2012 at 8:02 PM

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Sounders' Eddie Johnson gets call to play for U.S. national team in World Cup qualifying

Eddie Johnson was named to the U.S. national team Monday for two World Cup qualifiers, ending the forward's two-year wait for a call-up.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Oct. 17

Real Salt Lake @ Sounders FC, 7 p.m.

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Eddie Johnson was stuck at the airport Monday afternoon when his flight to join U.S. national team camp in Miami was delayed.

For the Sounders FC forward, the wait was surely no bother. Not after waiting two years for the call-up.

The anticipated news became official Monday, when U.S. Soccer announced Johnson was part of a 24-man roster for FIFA World Cup qualifiers Friday at Antigua & Barbuda and Oct. 16 against Guatemala in Kansas City.

"It's been a long road, a lot of hurdles I've had to overcome, a lot of adversity I've faced," said Johnson, who indicated on Twitter late Friday night that he got the call. "The good feeling about all of this is I get to share it with the people who believed in me."

Johnson, 28, was effusive in his praise for the Sounders for fostering a career revival, particularly after four difficult years in Europe and a failed deal with Mexican club Puebla last winter. Hearty thanks were extended to coach Sigi Schmid, the front office, teammates, fans and others.

U.S. men's national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann also gave credit to Schmid, a longtime friend, but offered most to Johnson.

"I think Eddie is back in that position because he worked very, very hard for it," Klinsmann said on a conference call. "If you watch his games and his drive, his hunger that he has, the way he chases defenders and the way he creates for himself and his striking partner's chances, the way he also finishes things off — that speaks for him."

Klinsmann said Johnson has been on the national-team radar for a while and the opportunity for these upcoming games was presented, in part, due to frustrations with regular forward Jozy Altidore, who was not called up.

Johnson was involved with the national team from 2004 through 2010 and has eight career goals in World Cup qualifying. Despite the experience, he said he'll feel like "the new guy" in his first involvement in a couple years.

Klinsmann disagreed.

"He's not a newcomer," he said of Johnson. "He was part of the program over the last 10 years or so. He had difficult times; he went through that. He had struggled in Europe, and Sigi found a way to get him back on track. It's exciting to see. ... I think he really deserves that call."

Were there times when Johnson doubted he'd get another call-up?

"I'd be lying if I said no," he said. "I think there's always doubt at some time in your career when things aren't going well."

Things are definitely going well in Seattle.

Johnson, who was acquired by the Sounders in a somewhat controversial preseason trade, leads the team with 14 goals, a franchise season record.

"Everyone asked me if getting called back to the national team was a goal of (mine), and yeah, it is," Johnson said, "but working hard and winning games in Seattle and trying to win MLS Cup, anything after that is just a bonus for me."

Notes

• Johnson is one of three Sounders called up during the international window, joining midfielder Mario Martinez (Honduras) and defender Adam Johansson (Sweden).

• Klinsmann said he wasn't bothered by Johnson pre-empting the announcement of his call-up on Twitter: "No worries at all from my end."

• Schmid indicated last week that there's a chance Johnson and Martinez could still be available in a big game Oct. 17 against Real Salt Lake despite coming a day after qualifiers. Johansson most likely won't be.

Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or jmayers@seattletimes.com

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