Borussia Mönchengladbach's Fabian Johnson is one of the Bundesliga's finest American servants. - © DFL
Borussia Mönchengladbach's Fabian Johnson is one of the Bundesliga's finest American servants. - © DFL

Fabian Johnson: Borussia Mönchengladbach's versatile American history-maker


After Fabian Johnson made his 200th Bundesliga appearance on Matchday 26, bundesliga.coms look back at the Munich-born USA international’s fine career in Germany’s top-flight.

Real American hero

Since breaking into the 1860 Munich first-team over 13 years ago, Johnson has gone on to feature for Wolfsburg, Hoffenheim and - since 2014 - Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Breaching the 200-appearance mark leaves Johnson in second place on the list of most Bundesliga outings by an American. Only Hannover legend Steven Cherundolo has amassed more, his whopping 302 games in the top-tier coming exclusively in the red of the 96ers.

Johnson is also second on the list of most Bundesliga goals by an American, his tally of 18 bettered only by Tom Dooley’s 20 and, at 31, the Gladbach wide man still has time to surpass both.

Fabian Johnson (c.) is currently enjoying a run in the Gladbach side at right-back. - 2019 Getty Images

In the company of world champions

Born in Munich to an American father and German-American mother, Johnson may have gone on to play for the USA, but his roots are most certainly shared between the two countries.

And Johnson could even have ended up a full Germany international, having represented the country of his birth from U17 to U21 level. During those fledgling days as a Bavarian breakout, Johnson even clinched the 2009 UEFA European U21 Championship trophy.

Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Sami Khedira, Benedikt Höwedes and Mesut Özil all played alongside Johnson in that triumphant vintage, and had Johnson pursued his senior international career with Germany, he too may have gone on to lift the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Fabian Johnson (l.) has played alongside and against World Cup winner Mesut Özil (r.). - imago/Fotoarena International

The red, white and blue

Johnson eventually chose to play for America, though, and has won 57 caps and scored twice for his country since making his debut in November 2011 against France.

It was another Germany legend who had an indelible impact on Johnson’s career at international level, with Jürgen Klinsmann handing him his first cap and presiding over all but three of Johnson’s run-outs for the USA.

Klinsmann took Johnson to the 2014 World Cup and, as fate would have it, he lined up against the eventual winners before the US were knocked out of the tournament in extra-time of the last-16 by Belgium.

Worth a second look? Fabian Johnson (c.) has not played for the USA since Jürgen Klinsmann (r.) left his role as coach. - imago/Fotoarena International

Mr. Adaptable

Klinsmann deployed Johnson at right-back during the tournament, later describing his adaptable charge as "one of the best right-backs at the World Cup in Brazil, definitely."

And while Johnson is far more accustomed - and effective - from his favoured left-wing, his versatility has become one of the hallmarks of his career.

Johnson has featured in every position bar centre-back and goalkeeper over the course of his pro days. Considering his ability all across the pitch and the unselfish, highly professional approach that makes Johnson such a likeable player, you’d back him to do a job in both positions should he ever be needed.

"I think every football player wants to get as many touches as possible. So do I," said Johnson of his position-hopping career. "I'm just trying to get on the ball whether I play as a defender or midfielder. It doesn't make any difference to me. I just want to enjoy the game and have fun, as do the whole team."

Watch: Best of the bunch? Fabian Johnson's wonder goal against Schalke from March 2017

Changing with the wind

Not only is it testament to Johnson’s attitude that he has been able to adapt so selflessly to a variety of positions, under various managers and styles, but also his ability.

And considering how much the game has changed during the 13 years Johnson has plied his trade in the Bundesliga, his longevity is something to be applauded, bottled up and passed on to the next generations in bulk.

His secret? Keep on working, keep on improving.

"I believe that the game has changed through the years here in Germany. Right now there is a lot of focus on statistics and how much and how fast you run. Your technical ability must also be very high," said Johnson. "I believe that as a player you can help yourself by training hard and giving 100 per cent, and try to get better every day."