Gregg Berhalter sees lots of value in having veterans in camp that have been with the U.S. Men’s National Team before. It is why he named Michael Bradley, Omar Gonzalez, and Tim Ream to the squad for this month’s friendlies.
One seasoned player the head coach did not call in, however, is Fabian Johnson.
Berhalter released his first full-strength U.S. roster on Tuesday, and one notable omission, given the surprise inclusion of other veterans, was Johnson. The 31-year-old fullback has been a regular contributor for Borussia Moenchengladbach this season, and that continuity combined with him possessing technical qualities seem to make him a good fit for the complex right back spot that Berhalter wants his U.S. team to have.
Johnson was not among the 24 players summoned, though, for the March camp that will include friendlies against Ecuador and Chile. His exclusion was not because he has retired from the international game, which he had previously mentioned as a possibility following the 2018 World Cup. Rather, it was because Berhalter wants to look at younger options in that position.
“He’s doing a good job at Moenchengladbach,” said Berhalter on Tuesday. “When I look at his profile and look at his position and being an outside back and the demands of an outside back and I’m projecting towards 2022, he’s one that’s right on the borderline. It’s a tough one.”
While Berhalter made no guarantees that Johnson will ever suit up for the U.S. again, the manager also did not rule out the possibility. Johnson still has a combination of experience and talent that is unmatched by any other right back in the player pool, and Berhalter seems to think that could be useful at some point in the future if others fall out form, get injured, or are unavailable for any other reasons.
“I was in Germany a couple weeks ago and I was able to meet with Fabian and talk to him about how he’s doing and his international career and his thoughts moving forward,” said Berhalter. “He’s a guy that still is available. I spoke to him and said, ‘If you’re needed, we’ll certainly look at you and bring you in.’
“I’m very comfortable with Fabian and what he’s done. I’ve known him for a long time, I’ve probably known him for 12 years, I played with him in Germany and I left the door open and I said, ‘We’ll stay in contact.’
One other veteran who was not called into this roster was Geoff Cameron. His absence was not all surprising given that he only just returned to training with Queens Park Rangers after a lengthy layoff because of an ankle injury, but it appears that he might not have much of a future with the group given that he is 33-years old.
“He’s another one that I think time is working against him right now with his age and 2022 as being a goal,” said Berhalter. “But he hasn’t unfortunately been able to compete on the field since December.”