Berhalter leaving the door open for Johnson to make USMNT return

Fabian Johnson Bundesliga Borussia Moenchengladbach 0-3092019Getty Images

Gregg Berhalter made some headlines when he called in a former teammate to the U.S. national team after a long time away and admitted on Tuesday that another of his former teammates could also see a long USMNT hiatus end at some point. 

Fabian Johnson hasn't played for the United States since he started in a World Cup qualifying loss to Costa Rica in September of 2017.  

He was inexplicably excluded from the USMNT's final World Cup qualifiers in October of 2017, including the fateful loss to Trinidad and Tobago that eliminated the Americans from World Cup qualifying. After that, it was assumed Johnson would make good on past suggestions that he would retire from international duty. 

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Berhalter revealed that a return to the national team is still possible for Johnson, who Berhalter spoke with during his most recent trip to Europe. Berhalter and Johnson were teammates at 1860 Munich from 2006 to 2009, a stretch that also saw Johnson play alongside current USMNT assistant coach Josh Wolff. 

"I was in Germany a couple weeks ago and I was able to meet with Fabian and talk to him about how he's doing and his international career and his thoughts moving forward, and he's a guy that still is available," Berhalter said.  

"I spoke to him and said, ‘Listen, if you're needed, we'll certainly look at you and bring you in.' I'm very comfortable with Fabian and what he's done. I've known him for a long time. I've probably known him for 12 years. I played with him in Germany and I left the door open and I said, 'We'll stay in contact'."  

Johnson, who starred for the USMNT at the 2014 World Cup, has endured injury issues in recent years and has struggled to stay healthy, which could be a reason for him to keep an international career on the back burner.  

Having said that, his versatility, and the U.S. team's continued need for fullback options, could facilitate a national team return now that it appears Johnson is open to the idea of potentially playing for the United States again.  

Fabian Johnson Gregg Berhalter 1860 Munich 2008

Even with his willingness to return, and his relationship with Berhalter, Johnson still faces an uphill battle to still be a viable option by the 2022 World Cup, when he would be close to 35. 

"When I look at his profile and look at his position and being an outside back and the demands of an outside back and I'm projecting towards 2022, he's one that's right on the borderline," Berhalter said. "It's a tough one. Having said that, I said, 'Listen, we're not closing the door. We'll leave it open but here's where we're at right now'."