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Soccer spectacular

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BRUCE ELLIOTT
  • Bruce Elliott

Even though everything seems to be going his way, Eddie Johnson says he's taking nothing for granted.

Despite the record-setting pace of his goal scoring for the U.S. national soccer team, he sees himself as just another guy fighting to be part of a team seemingly destined to qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

"I just want to score goals," Johnson said after a nudging a header in the net against the Colorado Rapids in a Tuesday afternoon scrimmage at Colorado College's Washburn Field.

The FC Dallas striker arrived in the Springs -- altitude 6,400 feet -- on March 10 along with 21 other national players to get used to sucking down thin mountain air. Later this month, the team travels to Mexico City -- altitude 7,400 feet -- for a World Cup qualifier against a skillful arch nemesis, the Mexican national team.

It marks the first time the U.S. team has trained in Colorado Springs.

Coach Bruce Arena is in the process of selecting his best 11 players. Another 20 hopefuls are currently in Europe, but will soon join the team for training sometime before the Mexico City match on March 25.

But first, this Saturday the team plays a training match against Honduras in Albuquerque, N.M.

So far, thanks in great part to 20-year-old Johnson, the team appears a lock for the World Cup, recently defeating Trinidad and Tobago, 2-0, and Columbia, 3-0.

In the team's last four U.S. qualifiers, Johnson, from Bunnell, Fla., has scored six goals -- a pace that could make him the top all-time World Cup qualification match goal scorer. He's already tied for third on the list.

But, again, he's taking nothing for granted.

"I'm excited, but the World Cup is a long ways from now," he said. "I'll just keep working hard."

-- Michael de Yoanna

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