In a special feature this month, teenage forward Ed Johnson reflects back on a busy 2001 season pulling double duty as a rookie for Major League Soccer's Dallas Burn and a star on the U.S. Under-17 Men's National Team that competed in the FIFA World Youth (U-17) Championship in September. Johnson, now a member of the U.S. Under-20 MNT, takes us through the ups and downs of his first year as a pro, from the day he was drafted to the off-season.
"When I first heard I was drafted by Dallas, I wasn't too thrilled. I really wanted to end up in Tampa, because that is the closest to my hometown (Palm Coast, Fla.) and all my friends on the Under-17 team who were still training at the Academy in Bradenton (site of U.S. Soccer's Under-17 MNT residency program). Dallas was still in the top three teams I wanted to be drafted by, but it was a long way from Tampa in that top three. The best thing about being drafted by the Burn is that I would be minutes away from Chefik (Simo), Hunter (Freeman) and Jordan (Stone). (Editor's note: All are teammates on the U.S. U-17 MNT and live in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area). I live like five minutes from all of them now, so that's cool.
"I lived with Brian Haynes (assistant coach for the Dallas Burn) in my first year. It worked out great. He has turned out to be like my big brother. We have the kind of relationship where it seems like we have known each other forever. He has kind of accepted me into his family. I help to take care of his kids. I was worried about being so far from my family in Florida, and now I have four families here in the Haynes, Simos, Stones and Freemans. It has worked out great – better than I would have ever imagined on draft day.
"The first week of training with the Burn didn't go as well as I would have liked. I didn't get much respect from the other guys. I was the little 17-year-old. I wasn't playing with much confidence and I think it showed. I just wasn't playing well. After that, (Czech international veteran) Lubos Kubik took me aside and told me that I need to have some confidence and play like I can play. Since then I started to play with more confidence and my play got a lot better. I got a lot more comfortable, I got some respect and I think I've been accepted as one of them.
"I remember the first moment I got into a game, it was against the Columbus Crew (on May 12). I got in for like two minutes (actually entered in the 87th minute), but I was still so nervous and so excited at the same time. It was a lot like my first game with the (U-17) national team. I'll always remember it. After watching MLS games on TV for so many years, to finally be out there playing was unreal.
"But my favorite memory is definitely scoring my first goal. I scored it on the Fourth of July to equalize in the 95th minute in injury time. It was crazy to score in front of 25,000 people. And then I almost scored again in overtime.
"I love hanging out with the guys and the guys acting as if they were my age -- just goofing around and having a good time. I get along real well with them. I spend a lot of time hanging out with Bobby Rhine, Aleksy Korol, Ryan Suarez, most of the young guys.
"But being in Dallas, I hang out with Chefik a lot. I wait for him to get out of school and then we hang out. This summer he trained with us, so we were spending a lot of time together. That has been one of the biggest positives to living in Dallas: getting to live with someone like Brian and then still being able to hang out with Chefik. I don't have a car yet, but I think I'll get one when I turn 18.
"I can't wait to get back to Dallas. I will finish here (at the Bollitieri Academy in Bradenton, Fla.) in December and then go home for the holidays and then to Dallas on January 15. I will have finished with all of my high school credits and then I'll come back and graduate with my class next spring. But right now I just can't wait for the 2002 season to start. The coaches have told me to expect to play more this year. I just can't wait to get it started.
"I've learned a lot in my short time as a pro, but I think one of the most important things has been learning how to take criticism. I've learned a lot playing with these guys and playing at such a high level. And in that, you have to take some criticism.
"Almost a year later, I can honestly say that there's never a moment where I regret my decision to turn pro."
Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder (Dissecting the 2002 World Cup Final Draw)
2) All I Want for Christmas... (w/ U.S. National Teams staff and players)
3) At the Movies (w/ U-21 WNT midfielder Aly Wagner)
4) Queries and Anecdotes (w/ MNT midfielder Chris Armas)
5) Making it to the Show (w/ U-17 MNT forward Ed Johnson)
6) Superstar!!! (w/ WNT forward Cindy Parlow)
7) Mark That Calendar (MNT vs. South Korea -- Dec. 9)
8) Point-Counterpoint (w/ coaches Bruce Arena and Bob Gansler)
9) From the Bleachers (w/ U.S. Soccer fan Dave Brett Wasser)
10) "You Don't Know Jack (Marshall)" (College Soccer Trivia)
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