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Eddie Johnson

Graham Zusi and Eddie Johnson’s Sterling Wide Play Critical to American Success in June

Wingers Graham Zusi and Eddie Johnson both played an important role in the perfect qualifying haul for the United States in June. The United States won all four June matches including a spectacular 4-3 victory in Washington against Germany to celebrate the US Soccer Federation Centennial. While much of the clamoring at the start of the month among US supporters was for a return of Landon Donovan, the exiled one-time poster boy of the game in the states, now the discussion revolves around the quality, commitment and consistency demonstrated recently by Jürgen Klinsmann’s side.

Graham Zusi, the Sporting Kansas City man was the player most often mentioned as “droppable” by supporters for Donovan at the start of the month. However, following the United States’ outstanding 1-0 victory over an injury-depleted yet game Honduras side in Sandy, Utah on Tuesday, Zusi’s place is secure.

Eddie Johnson spent a number of years in national team purgatory after his move to Fulham yielded little playing time and multiple failed loan moves. Johnson’s career was resurrected with a move back to Major League Soccer, and one of the top clubs in the region, the Seattle Sounders.

Johnson’s selection by Klinsmann for matches in early stage of CONCACAF qualifying was controversial. The Florida-born attacker burst onto the international scene in 2005 with several qualifying goals but cooled considerably thereafter and by the time the Hexagonal qualifying for the 2010 World Cup rolled around, he had been dropped by then USA Manager Bob Bradley.

Zusi was unavailable for the United States 2-0 victory over Panama but Johnson slotted in nicely moving over from the left wide position in the 4-3-3 the USA is now playing.  The crossing ability and attacking instincts of Zusi have contributed regularly to the positive offensive build-up by the US in qualifying while Johnson has been steady and shown an adeptness to play any of the forward positions in the formation.

Thus on Tuesday night, with Zusi again available, Klinsmann used both in wide positions, with the two often swapping flanks and playing inverted wingers at time. It was in this mode, where the right-footed Zusi cutting inside from the left flank was most dangerous giving the Honduran defense fits.

The development of attacking understanding by the United States under Jürgen Klinsmann has been remarkable. The goal of changing the style of play and maintaining possession while getting positive results has been largely accomplished in just under two years. This has also allowed the best talent in the player pool to rise to the top and shown the old game of sacred cows and automatic selections has been ended.

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  1. Jeff

    June 20, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Yea they aren’t playing a 4-3-3. They-re in a 4-2-3-1 with one of the defensive mids playing more attacking

  2. Matt

    June 20, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    My big, big problem is our wing backs. Fabian Johnson is certainly a must start on the left, but whether he’s better served as a full back than a winger is certainly up for debate. Beasley’s short term at LB has been far more satisfactory than I anticipated, but he still makes me uneasy. If Holden can make it back to how he was pre-injury, he should start at LW and we should push Fabian into the back 4.

    On the other side of the pitch, Brad Evans will need to strap a turbocharger to his back if he is to play right back next summer.

    I’m glad we finally look to be roaring through qualifying like we should be and I definitely feel better about this team as a whole than I did this time 4 years ago. But there are still glaring areas that need improvement.

  3. Alex

    June 19, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    If you honestly think Graham Zusi is the answe on the flank you are sorely mistaken and do not have any eye for the game at all. The guy is the most direct, uncreative, and one-dimensional guy on the team. He often looks lost in possession especially of the ball, is a one man counter attack fizzler, and has no concept of fluidity in the midfield at all. Do not be fooled by a couple of crosses against mediocre competition. Go rewatch the Belgium and Mexico games the guy looks lost. You are all delusional if you honestly think this guy is better or will be starting over landon donovan come 2014.

    • trickybrkn

      June 20, 2013 at 9:41 am

      or even the last match’s first half. In the first half he was not only out of position, he over played far too many balls. And not just the sort where it is fractionally high, but played into parts of the field where there was not USMNT player. The second half he looked better. But, when you face international teams that will play the counter attac, park the bus styles… you have to have great vision. Zusi does have great ambition, and desire. So if he can improve perhaps he can be the answer. He has the talent, just needs the gain experience.

    • Clampdown

      June 20, 2013 at 2:15 pm

      Klinsi seems to like him. But I guess he doesn’t have an eye for the game at all.

  4. Kevin_H

    June 19, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    How are they playing a 4-3-3? Bradley and Jones are the two Def-Mids. Dempsey is a withdrawn forward. If anything it’s a 4-2-2-2, or 4-4-1-1, isn’t it?

    EJ GZ
    JJ MB
    (Back four)

  5. Matt

    June 19, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    USA have practically qualified, one more win will do it, but I’m not buying the ESPN hype yet, this defense will get exposed against better teams which come at the World Cup.

  6. ben

    June 19, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Agree on zusi, not sold on ej.

    EJ looks great against poor teams such as Panama, but his ball skills and the speed/effectiveness of his interlinking with teammates does not hold up well against better opposition.

  7. Flyvanescence

    June 19, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    People seriously want Donovan back? He is mediocrity defined.

    • Kartik Krishnaiyer

      June 19, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      Fewer people want Donovan back today than a few weeks ago. He needs to really impress with the “B” team during the Gold Cup not just on the pitch but in training and the dressing room also.

    • Sgc

      June 20, 2013 at 4:45 pm

      I love the force of will in this post. It reminds me of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, only the Jim Carrey character eventually broke down, and he’d had surgical help.

  8. Clampdown

    June 19, 2013 at 10:42 am

    EJ has surprised me. I didn’t think he would ever be back in the fold with the national team again. He fits well in the 4-3-3. Zusi is vastly underrated, maybe because he was a late bloomer. It will be interesting to see how Klinsmann handles the Donovan situation heading toward the World Cup.

    Also, Jozy’s hold-up play has been excellent, as has his runs. Hopefully, he’ll stop getting criticized by the fair-weather supporters.

    The back line still scares me, though.

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