U.S. Men’s National Team Coach Jurgen Klinsmann surprised most national team followers by picking little-known German-American Fabian Johnson for the U.S. roster for upcoming friendlies against Costa Rica and Belgium in September. Hannover captain Steve Cherundolo and young 1. FC Nurnberg defender Timothy Chandler were also named to the U.S. squad.
Johnson, 23, joined 1899 Hoffenheim this summer from VfL Wolfsburg and has started all three 2011-2012 Bundesliga matches. The 6-foot tall defender figures on seeing action at left back for Klinsmann’s team, a spot that has been an Achilles heel for the Americans. Carlos Bocanegra, Heath Pearce, Edgar Castillo and Jonathan Bornstein are others who have had varying degrees of success at that position for the USMNT over recent years.
Johnson was born in Munich, the son of an American serviceman and German mother. He started his youth career with Sportfreunde Munich and joined 1860 Munich in 1996, making 90 appearances for the senior side between 2006 and 2009. He also was part of the 2009 champion German U-21 side. Johnson joined VfL Wolfsburg in July, 2009 and played in 16 matches in the Volkswagen city before transferring to Hoffenheim this summer.
Impressive in the preseason, Johnson made his Hoffenheim debut as a substitute in Hoffenheim’s extra-time DFB Pokal win over Germania Windeck at the end of July and has played 247 minutes in his three starts. His performance this season includes Hoffenheim’s impressive victory over champions Borussia Dortmund, in which Johnson showed his versatility by playing as a winger. Johnson’s ability to play various positions, along with his pace, look to keep him in Hoffenheim’s lineup under Coach Holger Stanislawski.
Hoffenheim also has other American ties. Joseph Gyau is on the U-23 Hoffenheim roster and 17 year-old Charles Renken is also part of the organization. Veteran striker Vedad Ibisevic, currently out with injury, went to high school in St. Louis and played a year at St. Louis University before being signed by French club PSG. Ibisevic plays internationally for his native Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Michael Bradley (Borussia Monchengladbach), Edson Buddle (FC Ingolstadt), Ricardo Clark (Eintracht Frankfurt) and David Yelldell (Bayer 04 Leverkusen) are German-based American internationals who did not receive a call-up for the September friendlies.