Three matches is way too early to bury a team, but Hoffenheim really tested that at the beginning of this season and it wasn't just that they started with three straight losses. It was that they looked so dreadful in those opening contests, giving up 11 goals and looking nothing like a professional soccer team.
But Hoffenheim have completely turned it around in their last two matches, tipping a very good Hannover team 3-1 over the weekend before smashing Stuttgart 3-0 yesterday. And what was the common denominator in the two Hoffenheim wins? Fabian Johnson scored in both.
Okay, so maybe the turnaround isn't just Johnson (or Danny Williams, who has also played well), but he played his part.
Johnson wasn't terrible in Hoffenheim's three losses, but he wasn't great. As anyone who has watched him for the U.S. knows, he lacks some defensive skills. That is the result of spending much of his career in the midfield, but the defensive struggles are still noticable. When Hoffenheim spent much of the first three matches defending, Johnson was in some trouble.
But in the last two matches Hoffenheim have gotten on the front foot and Johnson has thrived. His goal over the weekend was a gem and showed what he can do when he freed up to get forward. This goal, while hardly a mind-blowing exhibition of his skill, was notable for how far forward he was from his left back position.
As Johnson has found his form, so has Hoffenheim. Or as Hoffenheim found its form, so has Johnson? Probably the latter because Johnson has been freed up by the team's improved play, but he's certainly added to it.
Going forward, Johnson is dynamite. The next step: shoring up that defending.