Scouting America: Johnson and Yedlin
Jurgen Klinsmann called up five right-backs in the team's preliminary 30-man World Cup roster, but in true Klinsmann fashion, the United States manager made a bold call after finalizing his official 23-man team.
Fabian Johnson, who had thrived for the Stars and Stripes on the left side of the field, interchanging between full-back and winger, would be the team's starter at the position. And even more surprising was 20-year-old DeAndre Yedlin -- a player who hadn't played in any of the team's qualifiers -- being included in the squad. Yet both gambles have paid off tremendously in the U.S.' impressive campaign in a daunting group.
Outside of Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard, Johnson arguably has been the U.S.' third-best player. And Yedlin tantalized American fans with a fearless World Cup debut, contributing to Dempsey's go-ahead goal against Portugal. So, just how good are both men?
To assess both Johnson and Yedlin, ESPN FC reached out to a scout who plies his trade for a Champions League club in one of Europe's top leagues (Germany, England, Spain).
Here's his take:
Yedlin: "Though Yedlin likely was not going to be a starter for the USMNT heading into the World Cup, the youngster has proven why Klinsmann put faith in him. Against Portugal last weekend, his pace, energy and work ethic all impressed, and that'll take him far. He has a fantastic athleticism about him and carries himself with confidence when out on the pitch.
"From a technical point of view he enjoys having the ball at his feet and he's confident in his ability and his decision-making when going forward. He isn't afraid to get forward and put crosses in, but also knows what is required of him defensively and works hard when his team doesn't have the ball to win it back.
"He's difficult to get past in one-on-one situations because of how quick he is and continues to improve with his positioning. Combined with his ability to read the buildup of play, his quickness allows him to step in and intercept balls played into his men."
Johnson: "Klinsmann has played Fabian Johnson in multiple parts of the pitch during his time in charge, but it looks like he's finally settled on the fact that Johnson's best played as a right back. Like Yedlin, he is quick, full of energy and eager to get forward. He's difficult to get around but also something to think about when his team have the ball, as he likes to get the ball in advanced positions and push on whenever it is on.
"Johnson has shown throughout this World Cup and the games leading up to it that he is able to comfortably combine with players in the midfield when he does get forward and he's also capable of coming inside and using his left foot if he needs to. He's technically good and can deliver a solid cross when he gets forward."
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Yedlin: "An aggressive nature is one of his strengths, but, combined with his relative inexperience, that can hurt him at times. His eagerness to win the ball can sometimes negatively impact his decision-making.
"As he continues to play more and more in MLS and at the international level, he'll likely learn when he can commit himself completely and when he needs to slow down and apply just enough pressure. Like many young defenders, Yedlin also needs to improve his starting position, and that will come with more and more games played at a high level. Though his speed is a big asset, if he can learn to rely less and less on it to recover when he makes mistakes and be in the right position to begin with, the better."
Johnson: "Johnson is more disciplined than Yedlin, and that'll come from experience and likely having played at a high level for quite some time, but even he struggles at times with awareness and positioning, especially when the ball is on the opposite side of the pitch. As a midfielder/defender, Johnson's natural aggressiveness and tackling aren't top, but his athleticism helps make up for his weaknesses.
"Though he's incredibly versatile and an excellent addition to Klinsmann's current squad, Johnson has played as a midfielder and as a fullback on both sides at some point or another for both club and country, which could potentially affect his positioning when the game is played at a very high pace. Still, his versatility and ability to play on either side of the pitch has proven to be far more of a strength for him as he continues through his career."
What is the ceiling for both players?
Yedlin: "Yedlin showed last year in his debut season in MLS that he definitely has a bright future in the game. Some questioned his inclusion in Klinsmann's final 23, but Yedlin enjoyed a bright World Cup debut and reacted to the situation exceptionally well. There will always be nerves, but considering the importance of the match and the fact that Yedlin found himself on the pitch alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, he did very well.
The best way to see if a player can handle a big occasion is by throwing him in the deep end, and that's exactly what Klinsmann did with Yedlin. Based off his first full season in MLS and his continued development, Yedlin could feature for the U.S. for years to come. We could even see Johnson move back to left back when Yedlin becomes comfortable enough to make the right side of defense his own.
If Yedlin continues improving and learning his position, expect to see the exciting youngster earn himself a move to one of Europe's top leagues in the near future. Yedlin's attacking style and speed is similar to that of the Ivory Coast's Serge Aurier. The Toulouse defender has been rumored to be on the move this summer after attracting the attention of many clubs. Yedlin and Aurier are just a year apart, but Aurier's exposure in the French division has given him the chance of a potential big move a bit sooner."
Current Ability: C (MLS starter)
Potential: B+ (A regular starter on a midlevel/top EPL team)
Johnson: "It was announced in February that Johnson would join Borussia Monchengladbach on a free transfer at the start of this upcoming season. Some wondered whether or not Johnson sold himself short -- especially after the World Cup that he has had as one of the USA's top three players -- but all things considered, the defender/midfielder has made an excellent move for his career.
"At 26, this contract was always going to be an important one, and with Gladbach, he's signed for excellent German club with ambition -- a team that finished sixth last season and will have the opportunity to play in next season's Europa League.
"Johnson's versatility will make him a very appealing player for years to come. Having already featured as a left midfielder, left back and right back for the U.S. national team, Johnson took full advantage of [Steve] Cherundolo's retirement and likely has made the right back position his own for the foreseeable future.
"Johnson's style is similar to that of Liverpool right back Glen Johnson. Both Johnsons are confident on the ball and have shown over the past year that they are capable of coming inside and getting shots off on target. But they've also shown at times they can be susceptible in defense when the game progresses at a very high speed.
Current Ability: C+ (MLS All-Star)
Potential: B (A regular starter in a midlevel EPL team)
Alex Labidou is a General Editor at ESPN FC. He previously worked at Goal.com USA and made appearances on CNN International. Follow Alex on Twitter.