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US-Slovenia highlights

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Fabian Johnson Does Them Dirty

Fabian Johnson

  • DOB December 11, 1987
  • Age 26
  • Place of birth Munich, Germany
  • POSITION Defender/Midfielder
  • HEIGHT 6'0"
  • WEIGHT 155
  • U.S. CAPS 19
  • CLUB Hoffenheim
  • Current ASN 100 Rank 5
  • Previous ASN 100 Rank 7

Fabian Johnson might be the answer the United States has long sought at left back. In a May 2012 conference call, Jurgen Klinsmann praised the Hoffenheim man's display at the position during the final two months of the Bundesliga season, calling him "one of the best left backs" in the league. The coach’s comment seemed a little bit strange, seeing as Johnson previously had a star turn for the national team in the midfield against Slovenia. But versatility is perhaps the Munich-born player's best quality. Although he prefers midfield, he can play multiple positions, flying forward into the attack and defending with adequate—sometimes exceptional—skill.

How did Johnson arrive in a Red, White, and Blue uniform? Klinsmann recruited the youngster, who played a role on the Germany U-21 team that won the European title in 2009, almost as soon as he became U.S. head coach. Johnson joined a September 2011 camp, and he made his debut against France two months later after filing paperwork with FIFA. (Johnson's father is an American serviceman, making his son eligible to play for the United States. Jermaine Jones, Danny Williams, Terrence Boyd, and the erstwhile Timmy Chandler share a similar background.) Johnson has high hopes for his time with the Stars and Stripes, telling The New York Times, “I had a great time with the German national team. I think it helped me in my career a lot. I think the USA will help me even more.”

Johnson spent his formative years in the 1860 Munich system before leaving for Wolfsburg in 2009. He spent two seasons with the Wolves, although he only figured in 11 matches, starting eight, before departing for Hoffenheim. Johnson found a more substantial role under Markus Babbel, starting 28 league matches during the 2011-2012 season, scoring two goals and notching four assists. Klinsmann came calling, Johnson pledged allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, and the rest is history in the making. His ability to play multiple positions will ensure he finds a major role going forward in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup and beyond.—NOAH DAVIS

Klinsmann on Johnson:
"He has a special talent but down the road we have to find his best position. It is a good thing to know that he can really play several positions. But we need to figure out what is his 100 percent position and what is his 98 percent position." (February 2012)

Noteworthy Reads

Bundesliga Pipeline Sends Klinsmann Another Gift (New York Times)
Left Side Is Bright Side in Loss to Brazil (ESPN.com)
AmericanSoccerNow.