It was a pleasant surprise for US soccer fans when Hoffenheim’s Fabian Johnson was included in Jurgen Klinsmann’s U.S. squad to face Costa Rica and Belgium. Left back has been a problem position for the Yanks in recent years, and the solution has either been to play someone out of position or trust in Jonathan Bornstein. American fans were looking forward to seeing a young defender capable of holding his own on a big club in a major European league. Except there’s a minor problem: Fabian Johnson is not allowed to play for America.
Not yet, anyway. You see, like a number of players in the American system, Johnson is a foreign-born national with American parentage (similar situations: Jermaine Jones, Timmy Chandler, Fabian Huerzler, Mikkel Diskerud). As he has previously played in Germany’s youth international teams, Johnson must submit a one-time nationality change to FIFA, who hold it while they can decide if any money can be made from it.
It does send something of a message to left backs who aren’t Johnson or Edgar Castillo: Klinsi would rather call up a guy who’s not even allowed to play than have you in the squad.