Eddie Johnson's soccer career is over. It had really been over for a year now, but now he has announced that he is retiring at the age of 31.
Johnson was diagnosed with a heart condition late last year and hasn't played since. There was some hope that he would be cleared to play again, but that hasn't come and he's had to call it a career.
Despite playing his last match at just 30 years old, Johnson had a 14-year career. He debuted with FC Dallas way back in 2001 at the age of 17 and was one of the most highly touted youngsters that the United States had ever produced. He struggled to find his footing in his first three years in the league, but broke out with 12 goals in 2004. That season earned him his first look with the national team and he made quite the impact.
After establishing himself in the national team program with a remarkable youth career, scoring 23 goals for the U-27's and leading the FIFA World Youth Championship with four goals at the 2003 tournament, Johnson made his senior team debut on October 9, 2004. That match happened to be a World Cup qualifier, and he notched a goal in his debut. Four days later, he scored a hat trick and by his sixth World Cup qualifier, he had seven goals. He played twice at the 2006 World Cup and looked bound for stardom.
In 2007, his second with the Kansas City Wizards, he scored 15 goals and earned a move to Fulham. But four years in Europe didn't treat Johnson well as he played for four clubs, made 89 appearances and scored only seven goals. He fell out of the national team picture and his career looked over.
A return to MLS, with the Seattle Sounders in 2012, revived his career with a career high 17 goals. By the following year, Johnson was an integral member of the national team again. He helped them in the Gold Cup and was starting in crucial World Cup qualifiers. Johnson was back playing a key role on the international stage again.
Johnson was traded to D.C. United in 2014 and had a rough go of it. He also fell down the U.S. depth chart and missed the World Cup team. That year would prove to be the end of his career too, as he never played again due to his heart condition.
Johnson will go down as one of the bigger "what ifs" in American soccer. He was supposed to be a star and his play at the start of his career indicted that he wold be the dynamic striker the U.S. has always wanted. That never came to be, maybe because the hype always outstripped his quality, or maybe because of bad luck, or maybe because he didn't have the maturity or drive to make good on his considerable talent. Everyone you ask will probably give you another answer.
Whether Johnson ever reached his potential, a 14-year career is nothing to sneeze at. Neither is 90 goals at the club level, or 19 goals for the national team, which ranks him eighth on the United States' all-time list. But now, that career has come to an end.