Why Fabian Johnson Will Be the Key U.S. Player Against Honduras

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJune 13, 2013

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 11:  Dane Richards #11 of the Jamaican National Team and Fabian Johnson #23 of the U.S. National Team battle for control of the ball on September 11, 2012 at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

On Tuesday night, the United States men's national team will take to the pitch at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah for their third of three CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers in the month of June against Honduras.

In the last two weeks, the United States have gone through a complete resurgence, and they will be looking to defeat Honduras to earn their third consecutive qualifying victory.

As was the case with the match in Seattle against Panama, a key player will be missing from the starting 11 because of yellow card suspension.

The player who will be absent from Tuesday's match will be left-back DaMarcus Beasley, who will likely be replaced by Edgar Castillo. 

While Castillo's role is crucial, the play of Fabian Johnson on the left wing will make him the one player to watch against Honduras.

Johnson started on the left wing at the club level for German club Hoffenheim in their bid to fight another season in the Bundesliga last season. With the familiarity he has at the position and the lack of depth in the midfield, Johnson was handed the starting spot on the left wing by manager Jurgen Klinsmann against Germany in the June 7 friendly in Washington, D.C.

Johnson was handed some hefty criticism for his performance, or lack thereof, against Jamaica last Friday in Kingston, but he was able to silence the same critics four days later in Seattle.

The play of the 25-year-old German-born player exponentially improved from his fatigued state in Kingston on Friday.

Johnson was able to constantly attack the Panamanian defenders through his driving runs down the left wing in combination with the left-back, Beasley.

Johnson also provided Jozy Altidore with an assist on his 35th-minute goal that was one of the most fluid plays that the Americans have delivered during the Klinsmann era.

However, his performance against Panama far from guaranteed Johnson a consistent spot in the starting 11 moving forward.

The ever-lingering discussion of whether Landon Donovan will join the United States squad in the near future will hang over the entire United States team until a final decision is made.

If Donovan were to re-enter the national team picture, which could happen at the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup, he would play on the left wing to combine with the in-form Graham Zusi on the right wing. Zusi is one of the few players who has all but locked up a ticket to Brazil with his play over the last year.

With all of the Donovan drama still hanging around the United States, Johnson will have to prove with each and every match he plays that he is worthy of starting on the left wing, if Donovan fails to re-enter the national team fold.

Johnson must thrill American fans and Klinsmann once again on Tuesday as he prepares to make a bid for the starting midfield in Brazil.

Johnson's versatility could be taken advantage of down the road at left-back, but the immediate need for him is in the midfield and, if he thrives against Honduras, he could make another step toward booking his own ticket to Brazil next summer.

For more United States men's national team coverage, follow me on Twitter, @JTansey90.