1899 Hoffenheim v FC Schalke 04 - Bundesliga

Fabian Johnson at right back? Yeah, that could work just fine for the U.S. national team


Remember that Fabian Johnson injury we over-analyzed a few weeks ago? Hey, it happens. We see news, we react, and a lot of the time, reality goes in an entirely different direction.

Luckily for the U.S. Men’s National Team, the team’s first choice left back has returned to Hoffenheim’s lineup weeks ahead of March’s match in Ukraine. Johnson should be ready to report for Jurgen Klinsmann.

Today’s return, however, included a slight twist. The normal left-sided player, who can play anywhere from left wing to left fullback, was used on the right against visiting Stuttgart. With nominal right  back Andreas Beck deployed on the left, Johnson made a rare appearance on the opposite flank, going the full 90 in his team’s 4-1 rout.

That he’s back healthy is already a big plus. We talked about the effect of potentially missing another camp. If Johnson wasn’t able to play with the team in Ukraine, May’s call into the pre-World Cup camp would mark eight months between appearances for the U.S. For a team with a lot of moving pieces, that’s a long time to go without being at Klinsmann’s disposal.

Even better, Johnson put in some time at right back, also known as the U.S.’s biggest question mark. Right now, Brad Evans looks like the likely first choice. Michael Parkhurst is still an option, Geoff Cameron starts regularly for Stoke, but for a number of reasons, he projects as more of a through-the-middle option of the national team. With Steve Cherundolo still a major doubt, a thin corps of right backs means players like DeAndre Yedlin are still in the World Cup picture.

But if Johnson becomes an option at right back? Things suddenly look a lot better, particularly given how DaMarcus Beasley has played at left back. Quite simply, would you rather have a team that features Beasley on the left or one that starts Evans on the right?

Of course, there are a lot of assumptions baked into this hypothetical. Johnson has played 90 minutes at right back this year. It’s enough to indulge a fantasy, not a reality. Even if that reality comes to fruition, he may not be as good on the right as he’s been on the left. Maybe the choice isn’t Beasley versus Evans. Maybe it’s Beasley and a diminished Johnson versus Evans and a fully functional Johnson?

For now, it’s fun to think about. Johnson’s not only back, he’s giving U.S. Men’s National Team fans something else to consider. Another option at right back for Brazil? The team could use one.

WATCH: PL Download — Crystal Palace: South London and Proud

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Check out the latest episode of Premier League Download, a look inside Crystal Palace and the club’s passionate supporters.

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Win, lose or draw it’s always a party for the fans of Crystal Palace and Roger Bennett travels to Selhurst Park to learn how the beloved team went from Championship strugglers to a Premier League success story.

[ WATCH: Past episodes of PL Download ]

Klopp: “Perfect result” caps off perfect week for Liverpool

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Eight days, three games, three wins, seven goals scored and just two conceded — Liverpool’s week, by the numbers.

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From the thrashing of Manchester City last Saturday, to advancing to the knockout stage of the Europa League on Thursday, to grinding out a 1-0 home win over Swansea City on Sunday, it’s been another solid week for the Reds and still-new manager Jurgen Klopp, who now find themselves all the way up to sixth in the Premier League, just four points outside the top-four.

[ MORE: Sunday’s PL roundup — Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs all draw ]

Following Sunday’s triumph as Anfield, Klopp was his usual jovial self and rightfully pleased with his side’s results over the last eight days. Klopp, speaking in his post-game television interview (above video):

“A perfect result against a strong opponent — a very, very good defending opponent. [The Liverpool players] did a good job in the last week — a good reaction on their results; they defended really good; closed their gaps. … It was a difficult game. We had to change in the second half. … It was difficult — the wind and the opponent, but the result is perfect.”

“All we need is (defensive) stability. Everybody can see our skills on offense when we can play and have a little bit of space. Of course we can create more chances and can play better passes in some situations, but for a few players it’s really hard in this moment because they have to play always. … I’m really proud tonight.”

Easily the toughest part of competing in Europa League is the quick return to Premier League action from Thursday to Sunday, well over half the time against a side that didn’t any one of Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Playing in the Europa League has cost clubs like Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur an unbelievable (though, relatively unquantifiable) number of points in their respective bids to break back into the PL’s top-four over the last few seasons. There’s a reason Slaven Bilic‘s West Ham United essentially punted on the Europa League back in August.

Premier League Sunday roundup: Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs all draw; Reds win

NORWICH, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29:  Petr Cech of Arsenal looks dejected as Lewis Grabban of Norwich City (7) scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Arsenal at Carrow Road on November 29, 2015 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)
Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images
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The Europa League slate helped give us a quartet of Sunday morning Premier League fixtures, but only five goals through those four games.

Only Liverpool seized the chance to make a move up the table, as James Milner‘s penalty conversion moved the Reds closer to the Top Four, while Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal all settled for draws.

[ SUNDAY RUMORS: Vardy, Neymar, Stones all in the headlines ]

And Arsenal is facing a worsening injury crisis

Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Chelsea — RECAP

The most notable storyline heading into this match was Diego Costa‘s reported feud with Jose Mourinho, and the Chelsea boss opted to use Pedro up top instead of his best center forward. The play was even, and Chelsea probably looked the better for a goal, and Costa remained unused before tossing his bib toward Mourinho. Surely more to come. From the Spurs’ angle, the North London side missed a chance to assert itself as a title contestant. Mauricio Pochettino‘s side remains four points back of first place.

Liverpool 1-0 Swansea CityRECAP

Not much to like here, and Liverpool could’ve scored several times before Swans’ Neil Taylor gave up a penalty by keeping his arms out as he turned away from Jordon Ibe’s cross. James Milner converted, sending Jurgen Klopp‘s side closer to the Top Four (four points back of No. 4 Arsenal).

Norwich City 1-1 Arsenal — RECAP

Speaking of the Gunners, they scored a goal off a John Ruddy gaffe, but lost Laurent Koscielny and Alexis Sanchez to injury, also sacrificing an equalizer when Robbie Brady and Lewis Grabban teamed up to get the better of Gabriel Paulista and Petr Cech. Heady times for title hopes at the Emirates, but Sunderland and Aston Villa are next.

West Ham United 1-1 West Bromwich Albion — RECAP

A simply-gorgeous free kick goal from Mauro Zarate was on of several good bits of work by the home side, but Winston Reid picked up an own goal on his 150th West Ham appearance to leave this one a draw.

Liverpool 1-0 Swansea City: Milner’s PK the difference for Reds

James Milner, Liverpool FC
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Jurgen Klopp‘s resurgent Liverpool is within four points of the Top Four after a second-half penalty helped the Reds to a 1-0 win over Swansea City at Anfield on Sunday.

James Milner converted a Jordon Ibe-won PK to boost Liverpool to 23 points, good for sixth place.

Swansea is in 15th place with just 14 points, having cooled off considerably.

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Liverpool nearly opened the scoring in the sixth minute when Adam Lallana slipped Jordon Ibe in on goal, but Kyle Bartley slid to tackle the ball off the goal post.

The opening 20 minutes belonged to the Reds, with timely tackles and deflections saving Swansea on several occasions.

Nothing got through.

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Liverpool went ahead on a PK. converted the chance after Ibe’s cross was handled by Neil Taylor.

Swansea looked better from the goal onward, but couldn’t find an equalizer.