USA's Key Weapon and Achilles' Heel at 2014 World Cup

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistJune 10, 2014

HARRISON, NJ - JUNE 01:  Fabian Johnson #23 of the United States celebrates his goal in the first half against the Turkey during an international friendly match at Red Bull Arena on June 1, 2014 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Just like every team that will enter the 2014 FIFA World Cup this month, the United States has its strengths and weaknesses.

One player on the team in particular, Fabian Johnson, will be the key weapon for the Americans in Brazil, but he is also a part of the team's biggest Achilles' heel.

Johnson, 26, has been involved in the American setup since 2011, but his true role in the squad was never determined until the beginning of the team's pre-World Cup camp at Stanford University.

During the camp, Johnson was moved to right back, a position that has been filled with uncertainty since the injury and retirement of national team stalwart Steve Cherundolo.

LARNACA, CYPRUS - MARCH 05:  Fabian Johnson of the USA  in action during the Ukraine v USA International Friendly  at Antonis Papadopoulos stadium on March 5, 2014 in Larnaca, Cyprus.  (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images)
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images

By the time the World Cup ends, American fans could end up putting Johnson in the same discussion as Cherundolo in regards to who is the best right back to ever wear the Stars and Stripes.

Yes, that is an ambitious thought, but Johnson could have that big of an impact on the three Group G games played by the Americans over the next two weeks.

As we saw against Azerbaijan, Turkey and Nigeria, Johnson has the ability to surge forward in attack to provide an extra element to an American offense that already possesses strong players in Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore.

Against Turkey, Johnson impressed with his movement and speed, as he played a terrific give-and-go with Bradley to create the team's first goal in the 2-1 victory at Red Bull Arena:

Having the German-born defender overlap on the right wing to partner Graham Zusi caused the Turkish defense loads of problems and showed that he is the key weapon to American success in Brazil.

However, Johnson's attacking prowess could end up becoming the Achilles' heel of the United States against Ghana, Portugal and Germany.

By marauding forward to exploit the opposing defenses, Johnson leaves a gap on the left wing for opponents to take advantage of.

With that void comes the ability for talented wingers like Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Andre Schurrle, Andre Ayew and others to take control of the game with their terrific pace.

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - NOVEMBER 19:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal runs with the ball during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Play-off Second Leg match between Sweden and Portugal at Friends Arena on November 19, 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden.  (Photo by Martin
Martin Rose/Getty Images

Johnson can compensate for those runs into the attacking end of the pitch with his speed, but there will be a few times when he will be caught out in attack, which is natural for a right back with the skill set he possesses.

One way for the Americans to counter that deficiency is to play with two defensive midfielders so that one of the two players can track back to the wing and provide cover.

Jermaine Jones did a terrific job of this against Turkey, but on the other side of the pitch due to Timothy Chandler's spotty performance.

Jones shouldn't have to worry about the out-of-position Chandler with veteran DaMarcus Beasley likely employing the left back position.

One thing the players at the back should fear is the inconsistency that Matt Besler has shown over the last month, as the Sporting Kansas City player has conceded a penalty against Nigeria and looked shaky against the first two opponents in the send-off series.

Besler and fellow center back Geoff Cameron could also be caught out of position if Johnson is not back in time to defend a speedy counterattack down the left wing.

Jun 7, 2014; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Nigeria forward Shola Ameobi (23) and United States defender Matt Besler (5) miss the header during the first half at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If that is the case, the middle of the pitch could be left wide-open for an opponent to put a quick goal past keeper Tim Howard.

While this may seem like an extreme scenario, it is something that the Americans should be worried aboutespecially against three attacks that can pounce at any second.

There is no doubt that Johnson will provide an instant impact when he runs forward, but if he does so, he could shake up the defensive formation enough where holes could be left open.

Regardless of where he is on the pitch in Brazil, Johnson will leave a defining impact on the United States in a positive or negative fashion.


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.