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Oh, heavens! Who will start along the U.S. back line Friday?

Mar 18, 2013, 2:20 PM EDT

United States v Mexico - International Friendly Getty Images

Tempting though it is to draw a big red circle around the severely thinned U.S. defense and say, “Only Jurgen Klinsmann knows what the American back four will piece together in two qualifiers ahead,” there’s a harder truth to consider here:

The U.S. manager probably doesn’t know either.

But he’ll sort it out over the coming days; next week’s match in Mexico is really just for “bonus points;” no one expects to go into Azteca and get a result, although Jamaica just showed it can be done.

BUT! Friday’s contest in Costa Rica is a must-have for all the reasons we have talked about. Long story short, if Klinsmann’s team ties or loses Friday outside Denver, his boys are staring at the very ugly, and all-too-real possibility that the United States national team will have one or no points after three matches in final round World Cup qualifying – a fine Brazilian pickle, if only for the blow in confidence and the fan and media outrage sure to follow.

The U.S. effort to reach a seventh consecutive World Cup would then hang in the balance.

(MORE: Klinsmann discusses roster on national teleconference) 

Back to the battered back line …

Not to put too fine of a panicked point on this thing, but the six defenders named to Klinsmann’s 23-man roster have a total of 12 World Cup qualifier matches of experience. Half of those are from Geoff Cameron, and he was barely on the team at this point one year ago.

Still, the center back situation is not dire. It’s still young, as noted, but talented.

Cameron (pictured) and Omar Gonzalez, Klinsmann’s preferred pairing until further notice, apparently, is available. Matt Besler is untested in qualifiers but held up in the January U.S. camp. Clarence Goodson is a veteran with plenty of experience; he’s not a world-beater, but you know what you’ll get with Goodson, and that’s pretty solid at home against Costa Rica.

But would Klinsmann move Cameron to the outside, where he plays with Stoke City?

If so, would Maurice Edu dropped into a center back spot, where he’s played before. (A little less likely with the late injury news to Danny Williams, which thins the central midfield corps.)

As it stands, Tony Beltran and Justin Morrow are the only natural fullbacks on the U.S. roster. Morrow is a left back, and that looks like the particularly interesting position. There are plenty of options, although they are all highly imperfect.

(MORE: Injury dented U.S. roster announced Monday)

Brek Shea has played as a left back previously, although hardly extensively. DaMarcus Beasley has filled the role at national team level. Both are on the roster just announced.

Or Klinsmann could throw down a wildcard, the way he did with Jose Torres last year against Antiqua and Barbuda. Torres was effective as an attack-minded outside presence in that one. Clearly, however, Costa Rica is not Antiqua and Barbuda; the Ticos will demand far greater defensive attention.

There is one combination (but only one) available from this roster that would have played together as a foursome. Beltran, Gonzalez, Besler and Morrow started in a January friendly against Canada.

Given that such a foursome would mean excluding Cameron, the second-most experienced back line man at this point – And hows about that! – such an arrangement seems unlikely. Translation: a high probability occurrence of a U.S. back line that has never played together. That is hardly ideal.

In fact, we just saw one of those down in Honduras … everyone remember the defensive fiasco where that one fell to pieces?

The subplot here is Carlos Bocanegra’s absence from Monday’s roster. It’s fair to ask if Bocanegra could assist  here? He has, after all, been a starting center back and left back at international level for a decade.

There’s really no getting around this one. There can be but one reason Klinsmann declined to select the veteran of English, Scottish, French and German leagues (not to mention MLS): The manager believes his former captain’s speed and/or skills have declined to the point that he simply cannot be effective at top level anymore.

  1. mataveli - Mar 18, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    Bryan Ruiz is salivating.

  2. mrstev - Mar 18, 2013 at 2:35 PM

    Beasley would be fun to watch at left back, however Justin Morrow can more than get the job done. He’s been in blistering form for SJ lately.

    • mataveli - Mar 18, 2013 at 2:44 PM

      you dont remember Carlos Edwards spinning DMB like a top about 4-5 years ago in WCQ when he played a full 90 back there? as for Morrow, i dont hink he has the speed or ambition to get forward which is needed out of the wing backs for Klinsi. the canada game with him and beltran was an abysmal display of attacking prowess from the outside.

      • Steve Davis - Mar 18, 2013 at 2:52 PM

        I don’t exactly disagree with any of this. But, uh … you HAVE to put someone there, right?

      • mrstev - Mar 18, 2013 at 2:59 PM

        Ha Ha! I said Beasley would be “fun to watch” at left back, not necessarily that he would be a world beater in that spot! (I had forgotten about that qualifier though).
        As for JM not getting forward…ask the Crew’s right back about that. Morrow worked him like a shift last week and found the net to boot. I agree with you about the Canada game, he and Beltran seemed a bit nervous and definitely didn’t get forward much.

    • mataveli - Mar 18, 2013 at 3:08 PM

      It would def be something to watch @mrstev, just not sure i am ready for it again!!!!!!!!

      As for Morrow, he did have a good week, with a nice goal that Greenbaum somehow did not save. The kid is def a good player, but not sure if he is USMNT good, yet.

      • schmutzdeck - Mar 18, 2013 at 8:01 PM

        “The kid is def a good player, but not sure if he is USMNT good, yet.”

        There is only one way to find out and sooner , and at home, is better than later.

  3. mataveli - Mar 18, 2013 at 3:02 PM

    No good answer that is for sure. 3 at the back????

  4. cdmclaren - Mar 18, 2013 at 3:07 PM

    I’d prefer Spector, Onyewu, and Lichaj to these guys. Spector is playing again, Lichaj has played well when he plays, and Onyewu is on a Malaga team that just made it to the next round of champions league.

    • Steve Davis - Mar 18, 2013 at 3:23 PM

      Spector was injured over the weekend

    • schmutzdeck - Mar 18, 2013 at 7:57 PM

      What makes you say Lichaj plays well when he plays?

      Villa has played 30 league games this season. Lichaj has 8 starts and 7 substitute appearances. A lot of these were early on. Lately his time has decreased.

      Either he’s injured in which case he is no use to the US or he has not been effective in which case why call him in.

      DMB has been gone from the scene for a long time as well but he played a game for JK at Azteca so JK knows him and he’s doing very well lately. Neither is true of Lichaj.

      You want to bring him in based on his play almost two years ago?

  5. mkbryant3 - Mar 18, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    Wow. This is going to be a lot of fun. These next two qualifiers for the back line is turning into a real Bildungsroman!

  6. dfstell - Mar 18, 2013 at 3:54 PM

    Man….I am so sick of this crap of playing guys out of position…especially for this game against Costa Rica. Just play Morrow at LB, Cameron at RB, Gonzalez at CB and either of Goodson or Besler at the other CB. That may not be a world-beater, but we’re not playing Germany away, we’re playing Costa Rica at home. It should be good enough.

    • mihawkins - Mar 18, 2013 at 4:45 PM


    • docstraw - Mar 18, 2013 at 4:53 PM

      agree with you there…Now is not the time to really over-think this thing. I hope that at home, Klinsmann opts not to go the 3 D-Mid route. perhaps a 4-2-3-1 with Jones and Bradley holding behind a MF 3 of Beasley/Dempsey/Zusi with Jozy up top. I will scream if he uses a “6” to play behind Jones and Bradley. Save that for Azteca, perhaps, or to protect the lead late against CR.

  7. mataveli - Mar 18, 2013 at 5:10 PM

    seems people are selling the Tico’s a bit short. Saborio should have no issues with any CB pairing the US throws out. Jairro, Ruiz, Arsenal youngster Joel Campbell all have big time skill and speed to run at our defense. Plus a MF full of experience and national team caps. This isnt the Saprissa/National team of old. This is a legitimate footballing nation with players all over europe (mostly scandinavian leagues) much like US soccer just a few short years ago.

  8. korules - Mar 19, 2013 at 7:09 AM

    If only they had O’Hara and Engen type players… ah well.

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