May 1, 2014, 1:25 PM EDT
When D.C. United forward Eddie Johnson went down in last Saturday’s 4-1 home win over FC Dallas, many feared the forward could be lost for an extended period of time.
After missing training earlier in the week, however, Johnson returned to practice on Wednesday raising hopes of his inclusion in the lineup for Saturday night’s crunch tie with the Portland Timbers.
Aware of United coach Ben Olsen’s cautious approach to bringing players back from injury too early, our good friends at Soccerly break down the coach’s options:
Should Johnson minutes be limited, expect forward Conor Doyle to receive significant minutes. Doyle, who came in for Johnson in last Saturday’s match against F.C. Dallas, has played in all seven matches for United this season. He has yet to score a goal in the 2014 campaign, but scored two goals last season after coming to the club on loan from Derby County in the English League Championship. At 6’2″ 172 pounds, he possesses size and strength that could be an asset against Timbers defender Pa Mamadou Kah, the imposing center-back for Portland.
Olsen could also go with Espindola as the lone striker up front and play a 4-5-1. Expect Lewis Neal to be added to the starting midfield if Olsen goes this route.
The 30-year-old Johnson has endured a difficult start to the 2014 MLS season, starting all 7 games but failing to find the back of the net and only managing 12 shots on goal. In his wake, Espindola has stepped up, scoring four goals and notching two assists.
Johnson’s form has improved of late but as Sean Maslin points out, competition is fierce for World Cup spots on Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad:
With fellow American forwards Terrence Boyd (18 goals with Rapid Vienna in Austria,) Aron Johansson (25 goals with AZ Alkmaar,) and Chris Wondolowski (3 goals in 6 matches with the San Jose Earthquakes) all performing very well for their prospective clubs, Johnson might find himself on the outside of the Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad should he miss any time with D.C. United.
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