(Wednesday, January 23, 2008) -- United States striker Eddie Johnson received an English work permit today and was immediately signed by Fulham of the English Premier League to a contract running through the summer of 2011.
Johnson, who has 11 goals in 31 matches with the U.S. men, will join Fulham this week and team officials hope to get him into the lineup as soon as possible.
Major League Soccer and Johnson of the Kansas City Wizards have been negotiating a transfer to the London club for several weeks. He was originally denied the necessary work permit because he had fallen one match short of playing the requisite 75 percent of U.S.national team "official" matches over the past two years. Having played 72 percent of those games apparently was sufficient for the appeals tribunal before which Johnson appeared.
As is its policy, MLS did not disclose the amout, but it is reported that the transfer fee for Johnson is the largest MLS has ever received for a player. Johnson signed a new contract with MLS last season and it reportedly contained a buyout clause valued at $4 million.
Johnson becomes the fifth U.S. player on Fulham. "I have made no secret of the fact that I believe the squad lacks a certain balance in specific areas of the team and following the loss of (American forward) Brian McBride to injury, this is true of our strike force," Fulham manager Roy Hodgson said "At six-foot, one-inches tall, Eddie has the presence that will complement the other forwards within our squad and he has the ability to offer us another dimension to our attacking play."
Johnson, 23, played seven seasons in MLS, the first five for FC Dallas (nee Dallas Burn) and the last two in Kansas City. In 127 regular-season matches, he scored 41 goals and added 13 assists. He had one assist in six playoff games.
"I have really enjoyed seeing and being a part of his progress as a player and will continue to follow his successes at Fulham," Wizards coach Curt Onalfo said of Johnson in a team press release. "As a team, we will move on. . . I know this was a difficult decision for him because he truly enjoyed playing for the Wizards and we wish him tremendous success in the English Premiership."
The other Americans on Fulham are McBride, who is about to return to action after dislocating his left kneecap in the season-opener, soon after he was named team captain; defender Carlos Bocanegra, midfielder-striker Clint Dempsey and goalkeeper Kasey Keller.
McBride has returned to training, but no date has been set for his return to the lineup.
In addition to the Americans, Fulham just signed Norway national-team central defender Brede Hangeland, who was born in Houston, from FC Copenhagen of Denmark on a three-and-a-half-year deal for an undisclosed fee.
Prior to signing with Copenhagen in 2006, Hangeland spent five seasons with FK Vikimg where Hodgson was his first manager.
Fullham is intent on escaping the relegation zone, bringing in Roy Hodgson December 28 to take over the floundering club. Several new players are expected to be signed.
"I am delighted to welcome Brede to Fulham and I think he will prove to be a tremendous signing for us," Hodgson told his club's web site. "I am of course very familiar with his ability and am confident that he will help our defensive options, and play an important part in the remaining games of this, and the following seasons."
Bocanegra and Dempsey were the only Americans to play yesterday, both going the distance as Fulham was eliminated from the FA Cup 5-3 in a third-round replay in a penalty-kicks tiebreaker by Bristol Rovers of the third-tier League One. The two teams played a scoreless draw through 120 minutes.
Dempsey had a clear chance in the 18th minute, but Rovers defender Steve Elliott tackled it at the last second, the impact requiring Elliott to be carried off on a stretcher and replaced. Dempsey had another opportunity late in regulation, but mis-kicked his shot. In the first of two 15-minute overtime periods, Dempsey shot at Bristol keeper Steve Phillips.
The Cottagers had played a 2-2 draw at home with Bristol January 6, requiring the replay.
On Saturday, Fulham fell 3-0 to league-leading Arsenal, the host Cottagers' third straight league loss, running its winless strak to 11 (0-8-3).
Both Bocanegra and Dempsey played 90 minutes. Dempsey was involved in a goal-mouth clash with Arsenal center back Philippe Senderos and Senderos had to leave for repairs. Dempsey actually put a shot into the net, but the play was ruled offside.
A week earlier, Bocanegra had to come off after 14 minutes of a 2-1 loss to visiting West Ham United after banging heads with Freddie Ljungberg. Dempsey went the distance.
Fulham is in 19th place at 2-12-9 with 15 points, five points from escaping the drop zone with 15 games left.