Broken hand a setback, but eight months away from squad a bigger issue for Fabian Johnson, U.S.

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United States Men’s National Team defender Fabian Johnson only made it through half of Hoffenheim’s Saturday Bundesliga match at Nürnberg, the 26-year-old left back suffering an injury that kept him from emerging from the locker room at intermission. On Sunday, the league’s web site confirmed Johnson has suffered broken bones in his right hand, claiming it was “not yet known” how long he’ll be out.

Johnson left what became a 4-0 loss to Timothy Chandler’s club, leaving his availability or the U.S.’s early March camp uncertain. That camp, the final time the team will convene before beginning preparations for the World Cup, culminates with a March 5 match in Kharkiv against Ukraine. Given he last appeared for the U.S. on Sep. 10 against Mexico, Johnson is now looking at eight months between appearances for the national team by the time he joins the group in May.

That’s a bigger concern that the actual injury. The time Johnson loses is obviously not ideal, but if he comes back some time in March, he’ll have plenty of time to find his game before the end of the Bundesliga season. Besides, it’s a hand injury. It’s not like his recovery will keep him off a bike or treadmill for long.

But given the constant state of flux Jurgen Klinsmann maintains within his squad, missing eight months for the U.S. is a lot different from missing the same time for, say, Spain. Perhaps it’s not as traumatic as being out of the team for Mexico, where the squad was constantly redefined at the end of qualifying, but it’s still a hinderance. The malleability of Klinsmann’s team leads to a constant state of flux.

For instance, it’s assumed that Johnson has an inside track on the team’s left back position, but since the Gold Cup, DaMarcus Beasley has played well when pressed into service. In theory, that frees Johnson to appear in midfield, as he’s infrequently done for the team, but with Landon Donovan’s return to the fold (and Eddie Johnson’s continued presence in the team), Johnson may not be needed farther up the field. Sure, Johnson seems like the best candidate at left back, but between being pressed into service higher up and missing time with injuries, other options have emerged.

These kinds of things can be worked out via otherwise meaningless camps in November and March, but thanks to injuries, Johnson may miss each (he already missed November’s). Klinsmann already knows what Johnson can and can’t do, but when he returns to the team in the weeks ahead of the World Cup, the U.S. boss will have to work out how Johnson fits with an ever-changing squad.

It’s a minor problem, one that’s likely to get solved, but until Johnson is healthy enough to join the national team, there’s nothing Klinsmann can do.

PODCAST: Bob Bradley talks MLS past, USMNT

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Scott Nicholls and Otis Earle welcomed Bob Bradley to their “Beyond The Pitch” podcast to discuss his time coaching the Chicago Fire, the Fire’s current squad, how MLS has evolved, the new generation of players coming into the USMNT and more.

Perhaps most interesting is Bradley talking about previous losses with stinging emotion that sounds like they happened yesterday, including the 2000 MLS Cup.

[ MORE: Latest Men In Blazers pod ]

Since being fired from Swansea City after less than 100 days, Bradley has been linked with the Norway national team gig as well as a return to Los Angeles. Keep up with the U.S. coach here, and check it out:

U.S. Open Cup preview: Which underdog has best odds?

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Every dog has its day, and the three lower-tier clubs remaining in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup are hoping for a second.

Miami FC, Sacramento Republic, and FC Cincinnati enjoyed wins over Major League Soccer sides in the fourth round, and now get further MLS tests in this week’s fifth round.

[ MORE: Lampard linked with manager opening ]

Once FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids tangle on Tuesday, attention turns to the underdogs on Wednesday. Who has the best chance to advance?

  1. Miami FC vs. Atlanta United — Playing an MLS expansion side at Riccardo Silva Stadium will give Miami a bit of confidence, and this is also a side with some good experience in pressure spots. Whether it’s manager Alessandro Nesta or MLS vets Michel, Gabriel Farfan, and Michael Lahoud, MFC won’t shy away. Upset chance: Solid.
  2. FC Cincinnati vs. Chicago Fire — The visitors are having a heck of a season in MLS and don’t have a group which will be worried by a huge crowd, but there’s no debating that 25,000-plus in Southern Ohio give FCC more than a puncher’s chance. Upset chance: Improbable, but possible
  3. LA Galaxy vs. Sacramento Republic — If LA puts something close to its best side out there, Sacramento will struggle to stop its attack.  Upset chance: Long shot.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, New England hosts DC United, Philadelphia visits the Red Bulls, Seattle is off to San Jose, and Houston hosts Sporting KC.

WATCH: Spain’s Saul smashes a shot past Italy’s Donnarumma

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Since returning from a loan at Rayo Vallecano, Saul Niguez has been a somewhat under the radar star at Atletico Madrid.

Coming off his best season with Atleti, the 22-year-old Saul is making an even bigger name for himself at the U-21 EURO this summer.

Spain’s Saul scored a hat trick past Gianluigi Donnarumma and Italy on Tuesday, and the second goal was laced with venom.

Getting onto the ball from 30-plus yards out, Saul smashed his shot with enough power that the ball barely had occasion to rotate.

Saul is under contract at the Vicente Calderon through 2022, and has three caps for Spain’s senior team, too. He was rated Atleti’s third-best performer by WhoScored this season.

Men in Blazers podcast: Transfer window, USMNT at Gold Cup, RBNY-NYCFC

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Men In Blazers are back with their latest podcast, and the boys are hitting club soccer here and abroad as well as Bruce Arena’s men in the red, white, and blue.

Rog and Davo break down transfer window activity, rumored and real; get a heat check on the USMNT heading into the Gold Cup; and recap the (Ray) Hudson River Derby.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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