The Sounders did as expected Tuesday, trading forward Eddie Johnson to D.C. United for what owner/general manager Adrian Hanauer described as a “large amount of allocation money” that could help Seattle sign one or two more players. Hanauer said the swap was sparked by salary-cap considerations and had nothing to do with Johnson’s salary disgruntlements, which Hanauer characterized as “minor.”
“Eddie was a valuable part of our team the last two seasons,” Hanauer said. “He is a tremendous player who gave us some wonderful moments. This was an opportunity for us to receive allocation money that can strengthen our club in many areas. We wish him the best in D.C.”
Johnson’s trade, a subject of speculation since September, became a foregone conclusion this week when the Sounders acquired the rights to forward Kenny Cooper and allocation money from FC Dallas. Cooper scored six goals in 31 appearances last season.
Johnson, 29, led the Sounders in scoring the past two seasons and ranks second in club history with 23 goals in regular-season play. Since joining Seattle in 2012, Johnson has made 82 appearances for Seattle and the U.S. Men’s National Team with a combined 36 goals and seven assists, including a team-high 17 appearances for USMNT in 2013.
Johnson made 65 appearances with the Sounders across all competitions, scoring 29 goals with five assists. He ranks second in club history with eight game-winning goals and is the franchise’s all-time leader with three goals in the MLS Cup playoffs. In 2012, he garnered his third All-Star selection and was named the MLS Comeback Player of the Year.
Johnson has been capped 61 times by the USMNT, including 19 appearances since returning to MLS, and has 19 career goals. Johnson scored the game-winner against Mexico Sept. 10 to help the USMNT advance to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. He ranks second all-time with 12 goals in 21 World Cup Qualifying matches.
“I’m excited with this move to the most storied franchise in MLS, and I look forward to getting started with my new D.C. United teammates,” Johnson said.
Johnson caused a stir during a match with the Columbus Crew last summer after scoring the lone goal of the match. He rubbed his fingers on both hands while mouthing the words “pay me” a few times. That exhibition came two weeks after the Sounders signed Clint Dempsey to a guaranteed deal worth more than $5 million annually. Johnson made approximately $156,000.
Later, head coach Sigi Schmid asked an angry Johnson to leave a Sounders practice, but that didn’t result in disciplinary measures. In addition to the Columbus incident, Johnson often used his Twitter account to rant about his desire for more compensation.
Johnson’s move to D.C. United is the latest in a series of deals made by the Sounders following their hasty playoff exit, which concluded a spree of nine losses in 10 games. In addition to the trade for Cooper, the Sounders jettisoned starting goalkeeper Michael Gspurning and replaced him with Stefan Frei from Toronto, signed forward Tristan Bowen from Chivas USA and defender Chad Marshall from Columbus.
In an unrelated development, Hanauer confirmed that it’s “likely” Dempsey will be loaned to a European club in January, reportedly Fulham, the English Premier League club where Dempsey starred from 2007-12. Everton has been mentioned as another destination.
The loan would enable Dempsey to get in a good run of games before the start of the Sounders’ season March 8.