With Graham Zusi out, Eddie Johnson more than willing to slot in wide for USMNT
SEATTLE – What will the midfield look like now?
That’s perhaps the biggest question on US national team fans’ minds ahead of Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier here vs. Panama (9:30 pm ET, ESPN/UniMas, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
Jurgen Klinsmann will be missing two of his favorite lineup selections against the Panamanians with central midfielder Jermaine Jones suffering from concussion-like symptoms and Graham Zusi ineligible due to yellow-card accumulation.
Answers aren’t forthcoming less than 48 hours after the US’ 2-1 victory over Jamaica on Friday, but it’s still possible one of the two could be available. Jones – who left the game in the second half after an aerial collision with Jamaica defender Daniel Gordon – will be evaluated by a neurologist on Monday, according to a U.S. Soccer spokesman. Those results will determine his status for Tuesday’s match.
Replacement possibilities could include Geoff Cameron, should Klinsmann opt for a more defensive-minded fill-in, although neither he nor Klinsmann were available for comment Sunday.
Zusi’s spot is more tricky. There is no natural replacement on the roster for the right-sided Sporting KC playmaker, which opens the doors for Klinsmann to make a tactical shift. Other creative midfielders in the squad include Sacha Kljestan, Joe Corona and Stuart Holden. (None was available for comment Sunday.)
But Eddie Johnson is also an outside possibility – literally. He’s been deployed wide before by Klinsmann, most famously in a 2-1 win at Antigua and Barbuda last October in which the Seattle Sounders star scored a brace.
And he is more than willing to step up and reprise that assignment, should he be tasked with it, and would happily do so in front of his home crowd.
“I feel out wide you get to see a lot more of the field,” Johnson told reporters after Sunday’s training at CenturyLink Field. “You get the ball in positions where you don't have someone up your back and you're able to play to your strengths. It's something that I've worked hard at the last couple years. I'm just trying to be more consistent given those situations on the field."
Jonah Freedman is the managing editor of MLSsoccer.com.