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Report: Eddie Johnson unlikely to play again due to heart condition; MLS likely to grant salary cap relief

Eddie Johnson D.C. United 19

Sidelined indefinitely with a heart condition, D.C. United forward Eddie Johnson is unlikely to play soccer again. His nationwide search for answers and second opinions on his condition has failed to return any positive results.

He missed all of the pre-season training camp, has not been cleared to practice, and Johnson’s career may be coming to an end, according to a report by the Washington Post.

Johnson’s heart condition was first revealed during the 2014 postseason, when he was hospitalized prior to D.C. United’s home match against the New York Red Bulls. The incident uncovered symptoms that, at the time, suggested the possibility of an enlarged heart.

The Washington Post reported that because of the complexities of his condition and his guaranteed contract, the players’ union, league office and multiple attorneys are involved in trying to sort out how to handle Johnson’s case.

In the case of a season-ending injury, MLS rules state that a club may replace the player on the roster while remaining responsible for the salary and its cap implications. According to the Washington Post, MLS is prepared to make an exception in Johnson’s case, which would give D.C. United the cap space to make a significant summer signing to help replace a player who was expected to be one of the leaders of the team’s attack.

If Johnson is forced to retire, it would mark the end of a career that began at age the age of 16 and included a World Cup appearance and stint in the English Premier League. Johnson made 63 appearances for the U.S. Men’s National Team, scoring 19 goals.

(Editor’s Note- An earlier version of this SBI report contained sections of writing that were taken directly from the original Washington Post report. We at SBI have a zero tolerance policy toward plagiarism and make it a point to cite all sources of news items we pass on, and produce our own writing on news items. We will continue to strive for the best possible coverage of American soccer, and will work every day to maintain the high standard of coverage our readers have grown accustomed to.)


  1. ALL HAIL THE GAM!!! Very distinguished career. He lived out a great dream of working your way through MLS to the USMNT, playing in a World Cup, and eventually playing in Europe. I still remember that hat trick he had when he broke on to the scene!

  2. I’m glad to see him retire. The MLS nowadays has too many of these greedy, good-for-nothing gangsters. Now maybe he’ll finally be able to make those alimony payments.

  3. This could get ugly (we’ll probably never know) but if the whispers that seattle knew about this condition and didn’t inform DCU before the trade, or even worse MLS as well, and thus defrauded a fellow investor/operator are true then this is a big deal.

    Also, I’d be suprised if dc signs a ‘marquee’ player from outside this summer, without making at least a serious run at Hamid first (as a dp, he might stay for another couple seasons at $1.5.

  4. On a purely human side, I would like to know if EJ can live a normal life going forward. Hopefully SBI might be able to report on that if EJ is willing to share that information.

  5. Unfortunate..

    From a national team perspective.. EJ seemed to fit well into what Klinnsman is trying to accomplish..

    His ommission represented the biggest “shocker” regarding the final ’14 Cup roster..

    A fast, dynamic player with extreme confidence in the attacking third..

    Perhaps a little more confidence than his overall skill set warranted..but brought a little of the “nasty” we’ve heard so much of..

    The current USMNT coach seems to want fast, dynamic skill guys who challenge opponents from feet on the pitch to the space between the ears..

    In no way was EJ the best representative of that type of player.. But he did represent the idea..

    An idea that seems to lost on quite a few of the folks the comment on the sport..

  6. enjoyed all 19 of his USA goals. interesting that he scored 5x in his first year 2004 and 5x in the 2013 (basically his last), 9 goals in the 9 years between; when he was on he was on!

    my favorites were the goals in Antigua back in 2012; saved us big time!, the Gold Cup off the bench goal vs ELS and of course the qualifier in Columbus. One Giant Step Towards Brazil!

    • I remember seeing his first USMNT goal. He was all of 19 and I’m sure I wasn’t the only viewer who was wondering, Who is this guy? I think he scored three in his first 4 or 5 appearances; something ridiculous like that. And I think those first goals all happened after he came on as a substitute.

  7. Playing without heart never stopped him before.

    Just kidding, he was starting to get back into gear after the England adventure.

  8. Always a shame for someone’s career to end this way and hopefully this doesn’t affect his ability to live a normal life away from the game.

    I would assume that, if he has a contract, he’ll get paid. How DC’s salary cap space will be impacted is a mystery, as are most things like this with MLS. I wouldn’t have a problem with them being able to use Johnson’s salary cap space on other players this year. That seems fair.

  9. Hard to feel too too much sympathy for him due to his money grabbing ways, as well as not exactly being the best teammate.

    • I would think that EJ’s sudden retirement should paint a very real picture why athletes should grab every cent they can when they can, and why people shouldn’t bust their chops about it.

      • AlexH,,

        Exactly my thoughts. If he had not been money grabbing, he would not have this salary. Teams that pay it, value him at that level.

      • Not every player flashes money signs after scoring goals. When he was in seattle there was a real reason why he wasnt being paid a ton, and as soon as he was paid he lacked any drive what so ever.

    • Actually, it’s not entirely clear that this wasn’t discovered before. Remember the deal he supposedly had with Puebla before he came back to MLS? They rescinded it over some unspecified fitness issue — and everyone on the internet started assuming that EJ showed up fat and/or out of shape. In hindsight, it seems likely that Puebla’s doctors did discover a heart condition — and that MLS conveniently decided to overlook it. Or, MLS missed it and EJ didn’t tell anyone.

      That’s probably what the lawyers are arguing about now.

      • Good point. That would also explain the language in the article about it not being clear how much DC United will pay him. Johnson not disclosing a heart condition would be one of the few ways MLS could get out from under what is supposedly a guaranteed contract.

      • The story that’s making the rounds, fueled by inside sources that aren’t allowed to make public statements, is that Seattle (and possible MLS) knew about it at the time the deal was made to send him to DC, but failed to disclose it to DC; and that this is a direct contradiction of the legal terms of Thohir, Levien, and Chang’s investment into MLS, which is why “lawyers are involved”.

      • Well, the involvement of lawyers is interesting. I presume there’s some argument over liability, insurance etc. Perhaps, this wasn’t congenital? Perhaps, this was the result of behavior. Enlarged hearts can result for reasons other than being born with one, which might explain why it wasn’t caught earlier. Exercise can cause enlarged hearts, as can drug abuse. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about it.

        As for Eddie’s future, an enlarged heart, for the most part, is not dangerous under normal circumstances, and now that his doctors are aware they can treat him. My dad was a cardiologist and my bro a heart surgeon, so I grew up hearing these sorts of topics all the time.

  10. damn. Sad to see this. Always enjoyed watching him play for the national team. He was an important part of qualification for the world cup. Thought he should’ve had a spot on the WC team.

  11. MAN. What a great player for the USMNT. You can say what you want about his club career, but I always loved him for the Nats and as someone who used to live near where he’s from, it was always awesome to see a young brother come up from a really bad area and be an inspiration that everyone can play this wonderful game.

    Those two goals against Antigua in his first game back with USA in years was MASSIVE.

    Salute man.

    • Agreed. Eddie had his critics, and certainly had an outsize ego, but he was a damn good striker for a long time. Size, speed, great in the air, composed finisher. We would do well to produce more strikers of Eddie’s ability. He’ll be missed – I hope he is able to remain healthy during his post-soccer career.

    • I feel for the guy and I hope he has a happy and productive life ahead of him but I’m not going to misremember him as some great player for the national team. There was like a 6 year period between 2006 – 2012 where I would loudly groan when I saw Eddie Johnson was coming on… he just didn’t have it at the international level and if y’all remember correctly.. in that time period we had basically no striker options..

      He scored against mostly poor concacaf sides in his early career success and later career success.

      He was pretty much a diva with the whole way he moaned about his low salary in Seattle … yea, dude, thats what the market said you were worth… I didn’t hear fulham complain about the millions in transfer and salary they wasted on you..

      Good luck EJ

      • just one note that while EJ’s early USMNT career goals punished concacaf minnows they were nevertheless a big confidence boost at the time to the team. his burst onto the scene was timely in the team’s evolution for me

        best to EJ in the next phase of his life

      • Wow, do you give eulogies too?

        “He scored against mostly poor concacaf sides” could basically be said about every USMNT striker ever. With the exception of 3-4 World Cup games every 4 years and the occasional Copa America appearance, most USMNT games that matter (and a large chunk of games that don’t) are against poor CONCACAF sides. He scored in a decent number of games that counted, including World Cup qualifiers and Gold Cup games, and his overall goal-scoring record is top 10 all-time among USMNT players.

        It’s certainly fair to say his career was up-and-down, but at his best, he really did have a great combination of length, athleticism, and ability to finish in the air. I’d argue that, more than Landon Donovan’s, it was his absence that was really a problem at the 2014 World Cup, where when Altidore went down, we didn’t have anyone up front to get on the end of long passes and draw attention from defenses.

        Was he a world class player? Not even remotely close, but for where the USMNT was in 2004-2014, he certainly was one of our better strikers.

  12. Feel bad for the guy.

    At his club he just always seems to be somewhat of a jerk but for Country he was all out heart and wanted to perform (for the most, I know in his younger years he sometimes seemed uninterested).

    Glad to see MLS is being somewhat reasonable with DC and I hope DC is reasonable with EJ and pays him something.

    • +1 The guy bailed us out of some bad jams and came up with some very big goals. His (presumable) final goal for the USMNT was classic EJ, breaking the deadlock vs.Mexico in Columbus. He also boasts the rare feat of winning MLS comeback player of the year twice.

      Good luck to him.

      • was his last goal that goal where he subbed in, trotted on the field for the ensuing corner kick and without stopping just went up and headed the ball in? if so that’s a cool last goal. with the blonde mini fro.

        thanks EJ for your time, sad news but you were a great part of the team.

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