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Fabian Johnson’s versatility key for US soccer

SANDY, Utah — Nothing defines Fabian Johnson better than versatility.

It is one reason why the German-American was such a coveted addition to the US national team in 2011. Johnson can shift between midfield and left back with ease. No matter where he plays, he takes to the position like it is his natural one.

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‘‘It’s not tough,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘It’s just a different role that I have to play. I’ve played it a lot of times, so it won’t make any difference to the team or to me.’’

Johnson’s versatility could be valuable once again when the United States takes on Honduras in a 2014 World Cup qualifying match Tuesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, the home of Real Salt Lake of MLS. Honduras is the only team to beat the Americans in their hexagonal group this year and will certainly give them a stiff challenge in the rematch.

The United States leads the group with 10 points off three wins, a draw, and the loss at Honduras Feb. 6. The Hondurans are fourth with 7 points.

US coach Jurgen Klinsmann has not said who will start or where, but Johnson is expected to drop into the backfield from midfield, where he played against Panama. The juggling comes out of necessity to fill the hole left by DaMarcus Beasley this week. Beasley will be unavailable while serving a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation.

For Johnson, it is no big deal to switch. Left back is his club position, so it will be like slipping on a familiar pair of pants.

‘‘I’m used to left back,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘I played the whole season there with Hoffenheim. It wouldn’t be a [big] difference to me if I were to start there or the midfield. I just try to do my best at every position I play.’’

Moving Johnson is not the only anticipated change. Graham Zusi and Jermaine Jones are expected to return to the starting lineup after both players missed the 2-0 victory over Panama last Tuesday.

Still, taking Johnson out of midfield is a tough call. He has been a steadying force in the middle for the US team during the qualifying matches.

Johnson is adaptable enough to make life equally tough from the left back position. His willingness to tackle any role makes everything easier for the entire back line.

‘‘Versatility is good,’’ goalkeeper Tim Howard said. ‘‘Sometimes, it can be a curse as well in terms of not being able to solidify a position. Our guys seem to do it. Just being natural athletes back there leads to that versatility.’’

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