Fabian Johnson was back in the TSG Hoffenheim lineup yesterday, which is good wonderful news for the U.S. back line situation – one that was suddenly looking a bit sketchy at a pretty bad time.
A knee injury had kept Johnson out of Hoffenheim’s last two matches, a 2-1 loss last week to Eintracht Frankfurt and a scoreless draw with Borussia Monchengladbach as Bundesliga action resumed on Jan. 19 following the winter break.
But he was on the field as previously slumping Hoffenheim turned up with a 2-1 victory at home over Freiburg.
Longtime U.S. right back Steve Cherundolo is out for Hannover at the moment, also with apparent knee trouble.
Johnson (pictured) and Cherundolo are Jurgen Klinsmann’s first-choice back line starters along the outside when healthy, although Timmy Chandler will presumably have something to say about that soon. He will, that is, if he’s around.
Chandler has been quite wishy-wahsy about getting permanently attached to the United States. He says he’s in – but that will be easier to believe when we know for sure the German-American has landed in Miami, where the United States is gathering to prep for this week’s trip into Honduras.
(MORE: U.S. Soccer’s curious timing on roster announcements)
The situation might have ticked upward had Tony Beltran done a better job of seizing his opportunity last week. The Real Salt Lake man got a start against Canada but hardly distinguished himself. (He wasn’t alone.) Justin Morrow did a little better in his start along the left, although he did not quite rise to “difference-maker” status.
Meanwhile, we all know that the central defense has questions makes of its own to consider.
Add it all up and, yes, Johnson’s ability to get back on the field is quite a positive development for Klinsmann and the U.S. national team.
The game in 100 words (or less): Real Salt Lake stays alive in the hunt for a playoff berth in the Western Conference with a crucial 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids. After falling behind early, RSL scored twice before halftime and held onto the lead for the rest of the match, moving within three points of the final playoff spot in the West. Real Salt Lake has three matches remaining, including a massive clash against the Portland Timbers, which will pretty much decide their season. For Colorado, it’s another year without playoff soccer.
[ MORE: FC Dallas clinches playoff berth ]
Three moments that mattered
16′ — Doyle heads Colorado into the lead — The former Premier League man gave the home side an early lead, thanks to a powerful header from quite a bit out. Sean St. Ledger played in a cross, where Doyle snapped a header into the top corner past Nick Rimando.
33′ — Joao Plata bends in the free kick — Trailing 1-0, Joao Plata drew RSL level with a brilliant free kick. Plata’s shot dipped over the wall and under the crossbar, as Clint Irwin stood helpless in goal for Colorado.
43′ — Mulholland fires home a volley to put RSL ahead — Luke Mulholland scored his first goal of the season, and it was a beauty. A corner kick popped out to the midfielder at the top of the box, as he rifled a shot off the bounce and into the side netting.
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Man of the match: Luke Mulholland
Goalscorers: Doyle (16′), Plata (33′), Mulholland (43′)
Arsenal put on a superb performance against Manchester United today, flying out to a three-goal lead in the opening 20 minutes of the match.
[ RECAP: Arsenal 3-0 Manchester United ]
United was stunned by the fast-paced, free-flowing Arsenal attack, unable to recover from the Gunners’ early dominance.
All of this came on the heels of a disappointing loss to Olympiacos in the Champions League, after which many questioned manager Arsene Wenger and his side.
[ MORE: Three things we learned from Arsenal’s win vs. Manchester United ]
Following the big 3-0 win at the Emirates, Wenger praised his team’s spirit, saying there were outstanding performances throughout the side.
You go from Petr Cech up to Theo Walcott, and we had only outstanding performances. Sometimes we have that magic side in our game.
[Against Olympiacos] maybe we lacked a little bit of urgency and discipline, and that’s why we lost the game. But let’s not forget, last Saturday we won 5-2 at Leicester. Today we beat Man United 3-0.
[The players] have shown that we have an outstanding spirit in the squad. To respond the way we did after what happened to us, you need to have an exceptional spirit.
The Gunners’ performance today immediately silenced all the critics, as Wenger’s side put out on a display that many have been waiting for all season. The combination play of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott was brilliant, as Santi Cazorla continued to impress in the center of the midfield.
Wenger’s teams have not always been known to show strong heart and resiliency, but that’s exactly what they showed today against a Manchester United side that was in great form. Now sitting second on the table, Arsenal continues to climb up the Premier League.