It’s no secret that Fabian Johnson remains one of the best players for the United States national team.
Whether he lines up in the midfield or in defense, on the left or the right, an in-form Johnson provides the U.S. with a dynamic player on the flanks that has become all-too rare in the current player pool.
So with March's World Cup qualifiers just a month and a half away, it should make U.S. fans happy to see Johnson slowly returning to form in the Bundesliga.
He got a cameo in his return from an Achilles injury last week for Borussia Monchengladbach. Though he did not start Saturday’s contest either, he came off the pine in the 65th minute and eight minutes later, delivered the assist on Gladbach’s opening goal against Freiburg.
Johnson simply headed a goal kick down into space, which Lars Stindl ran into. Stindl then made the most of it, going on an impressive run and delivering an excellent finish from the edge of the area.
Still, while the goal was more Stindl than Johnson, it was the breakthrough Gladbach was looking for as the side went on to a 3-0 victory over Freiburg. Johnson had a solid outing beyond the assist, completing nearly 85 percent of his passes and 89 percent in the opposition half.
We’ll see if Johnson can find his way back among the starters in one of Gladbach’s upcoming contests.
ARRIOLA CAPS TIJUANA ROUT
Four Americans were on display in the Liga MX battle between Leon and Tijuana on Saturday evening. All four made the starting lineups for their sides with the trio of Michael Orozco, Joe Corona and Paul Arriola in the XI for Xolos while William Yarbrough started between the sticks for Leon.
With Tijuana up 3-1, Arriola put a capper on the contest, taking an Aviles Hurtado pass and then firing a shot past Yarbrough.
The other Americans in the contest didn’t fare quite as well. Yarbrough conceded four. Two of them were penalties, but he conceded one of those himself, while Orozco only lasted 20 minutes before having to be substituted due to injury.
But for Arriola, things are looking up. The 22-year-old attacker now has two goals and two assists in five games in the Clausura. A starter for all of those contests, he seems have worked his way into Miguel Herrera’s plans after a frustrating period in the Apertura where he did not start at all. If he can keep it up, especially given the dearth of options out wide, Arriola might just find himself with a chance to shine next month in World Cup qualifying.
JOHANNSSON MAKES UP-AND-DOWN RETURN
It’s been a rough couple of seasons for Aron Johannsson as injuries have limited him to just 13 league appearances over the past season and a half for Werder Bremen.
Johannsson returned to action for the first time since mid-December, entering in the 66th minute for Bremen in the side’s 3-2 loss to Augsburg. The performance was a mixed bag.
The striker popped up in positions to get himself chances, getting two shots off, but neither was on target. Perhaps the best example of this came in stoppage time with the game tied 2-2. Johannsson read the defender attempting a back pass and intercepted it, to give himself an excellent chance on goal. But his shot was put wide, and minutes later, Augsburg would find the winner from Raul Bobadilla.
Overall it’s good Johannsson was back on the field, and good that he fashioned out chances for himself. But he’ll need to be far more clinical if he wants to fight his way into the starting lineup and help 15th-placed Bremen escape relegation.
YEDLIN SAVES NEWCASTLE
Out of the limelight of the Premier League, DeAndre Yedlin continues to make strides with Newcastle United.
Against Derby County, Yedlin put in another strong effort, capped off with a goal-saving clearance in stoppage time that preserved the 1-0 Newcastle win.
There were definitely questions raised as to whether Yedlin was making the right call by dropping down a level after holding his own in the Premier League last year with Sunderland. But with his recent uptick in form, and Newcastle looking like a decent bet to return to the Premier League in 2017-18, it looks like the fullback made the right call.
BROOKS WINS BATTLE OF AMERICANS
Liga MX wasn’t the only place where Americans were going head to head. In the Bundesliga, John Brooks and Hertha Berlin hosted Alfredo Morales and Ingolstadt, with both players earning starts for their respective sides. A goal in the second minute from Genki Haraguchi proved the difference as Hertha came out on top 1-0.
Morales was active, successfully making all four tackles he attempted with a pass accuracy rating of 65 percent. He picked up a yellow card in the contest, but went the full 90. Meanwhile, Brooks also went the distance. He was solid as he helped his side keep the clean sheet winning two aerial duels and a tackle as part of an all-around effort by the Hertha Berlin backline.
The win has Hertha sixth in the table, while Ingolstadt is mired in 15th, second from the bottom.