Graham Zusi replaces Fabian Johnson on USMNT roster for crucial World Cup qualifiers

Graham Zusi has been added to the U.S. national team’s roster for World Cup qualifiers starting next week to replace the injured Fabian Johnson.

Johnson was injured on Thursday during a Europa League match and had to come off after just 15 minutes. U.S. Soccer confirmed Friday that coach Bruce Arena dropped Johnson from the roster and Zusi was named as his replacement.

Zusi joins the USMNT roster being listed as a defender, which means Arena may not be looking for a like-for-like replacement – but Zusi still offers some of the same versatility of Johnson. Although Johnson often played as a left back for the USMNT by coach Jurgen Klinsmann, Arena has said he sees Johnson playing in the wide midfield where he plays for his club. Zusi, meanwhile, has spent his career as a midfield winger, but Arena tested him at a fullback spot in January based on similar experiments at Sporting Kansas City.

Both Zusi and Johnson can switch between the midfield and the back line, although Zusi is much newer and less tested defensively. The Americans are lacking depth at fullback, however, due to the injuries of DeAndre Yedlin and Eric Lichaj, along with the suspension of Timmy Chandler.

While Arena had plenty of in-form winger options he could’ve called in, Arena’s decision to call Zusi hints not just at a need for defensive depth, but at a preference for more USMNT experience. Zusi has featured for the Americans in his share of World Cup qualifiers over the years — he has almost 50 caps with the USMNT, 15 of them during World Cup qualifiers.

The USMNT is in need of a win after losing their first two matches of the final round of World Cup qualifying. They face Honduras on March 24 at 10:30 p.m. ET on FS1.

Updated USMNT roster:

GOALKEEPERS (3): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (9): DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin/GER), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana/MEX), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting KC)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union, Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER)

FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER)

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