Apr 3, 2014, 8:41 AM EDT
One of the biggest question marks surrounding the U.S. Men’s National Team heading into this summer’s World Cup in Brazil concerns the team’s backline. Last night’s 2-2 draw with Mexico did little to shed light on this growing worry.
Jurgen Klinsmann came into last night’s match with a MLS stable of six defenders to choose from: Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, Clarence Goodson, Tony Beltran, Michael Parkhurst and DeAndre Yedlin.
This meant more than a few key faces were missing, namely, Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron and Hoffenheim’s Fabian Johnson, who remained with their clubs in Europe, Seattle’s Brad Evans, who is recovering from a calf injury sustained during a game against Toronto FC on March 15, and Puebla’s DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco, who were not released by their club because the friendly did not fall on a FIFA international match date.
Klinsmann, therefore, opted to start a center-back partnership of Besler and Gonzalez, with Parkhurst on the left and Beltran on the right.
Gonzalez began the game strong, looking much like the player who impressed in the 0-0 draw with Mexico in 2013 and the 2-0 win over El Tri on September 10th. His second half, however, was a complete horror show as he lost track of Rafa Marquez on Mexico’s opener in the 49th minute and got caught ball-watching on Alan Pulido’s 68th minute equalizer.
Marquez’ goal highlighted Gonzalez’ inability to use the body he’s been blessed with. Despite his 6’5″, 205 lbs. frame, Gonzalez remains reluctant to bust through the opposition with Marquez easily evading him by running a pick around Kyle Beckerman and Juan Valenzuela. It was a simple move by a crafty veteran that Gonzalez should have had the strength to either blow straight through or the agility and wherewithal to skip around. Instead, he was left flat-footed, miles away from Marquez.
On Pulido’s strike, Gonzalez either fell asleep or gave up. Either way, he looked totally perplexed at how Pulido had gotten around him and silly with his hand held high in the air, begging for offside.
Besler, on the other hand, continues to impress despite his relative inexperience at the national team level. The smooth passing Sporting KC center-back is blessed with brilliant timing and, unlike his partner last night, is rapt with attention the entire time he’s on the pitch. In the first half Besler denied Pulido a clever chance and throughout the game showed the poise of a man ready to lead in Brazil.
The problem was that Besler’s night was cut short by Klinsmann’s decision to swap him out for Clarence Goodson. Like Besler, Goodson has a quiet confidence to him, no doubt the result of a 31-year-old with a diverse soccer CV. Goodson’s consistency is his best trait and while nothing about his performance last night will raise red flags, his similar style to Besler, minus perhaps an ounce of the tenaciousness, makes him feel like the third center-back option in Brazil.
The most likely partner for Besler come this summer is Cameron, who, despite playing right-back for his club, has the versatility (and the desire) to play in the center of the defense. Cameron’s speed, grit and experience make him feel like the right compliment to Belser but if this duo is to lead the Stars & Stripes in Brazil, they’ll need to begin fusing a proper partnership, and quick.
Parkhurst, starting at left-back, is another player who didn’t hurt his chances for Brazil. The Columbus Crew captain went 90 strong and generally held down his side of the field, which wasn’t easy considering the pouring forward of Mexico as the game matured. Yet given the presence of players like Johnson and Beasley, who remain the most likely left-backs to start in Brazil, Parkhurst is still a player on the bubble.
Beltran had some decent moments but was largely an inconsistent figure. His defending was average and Mexico looked to exploit him down the right side of the field. Yedlin was impressive when he came on for Beltran in the 71st minute, putting together a few trademark scampers up the pitch although his inexperience remains a worry. One for the future, no doubt, but as far as selection for this summer goes, Yedlin is another who will need a big spring to punch his ticket to Brazil.
As the USMNT enters its final prep phase for World Cup 2014, the time has come for Klinsmann to settle on a back four that can gel. Besler and Cameron feel like a solid combination, although Goodson could also do the job if Cameron is used as a right-back with Johnson on the left. If Cameron stays in the middle, Johnson on the left and Evans on the right could work, or, Beasley could go left with Johnson right.
Either way, Besler, Cameron and Johnson remain the three key pieces to the Nats back four. Who that fourth player is and what permutation the USMNT will ultimately feature in Brazil remains in the trusted hands of Klinsmann.
Aug 4, 2015, 9:33 PM EDT
A winger, Veron scored eight times in 52 appearances for Argentine power San Lorenzo.
Aug 4, 2015, 9:09 PM EDT
Full marks to the Sounders for not pointing out that Portland has a player named Peay.
Aug 4, 2015, 8:05 PM EDT
L’Equipe says FMF representatives met with Bielsa’s people on Tuesday morning and France, and that Bielsa is interested.
Aug 4, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT
The “end of the year” promise could be the real deal, but the nation has certainly taken its time.
Aug 4, 2015, 6:22 PM EDT
The transfer window hasn’t closed, but a lot of the names who’ve climbed through it have us salivating for Saturday’s start to the Premier League season.
Aug 4, 2015, 5:33 PM EDT
Keeping Bale and Benzema around will keep Madrid among the favorites for the UEFA Champions League, as the giants search for Undecima.
Aug 4, 2015, 4:47 PM EDT
Picking a group of five defenders is way more difficult than selecting the best goalkeepers in the league.
Aug 4, 2015, 4:13 PM EDT
McInerney, however, has disappointed in recent seasons. Perhaps a change in leader, albeit for the second time, will help.
Aug 4, 2015, 3:19 PM EDT
At Roma, Dzeko will join a loaded attack which includes Mattia Destro, Victor Ibarbo and Seydou Doumbia, as well as Francesco Totti.
Aug 4, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT
Ever wonder where the games you’re watching on TV are taking place? Here’s a guide to help you out.
Aug 4, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
D.C. United, LA Galaxy, RSL, Vancouver and Seattle fly the MLS flag as they look to break Liga MX’s stronghold.
Aug 4, 2015, 12:50 PM EDT
This coin toss is a really, really big deal for the four teams left in the competition.
Aug 4, 2015, 12:20 PM EDT
Should a PL giant hand Zlatan a chance to strut his stuff in England’s top-flight?
Aug 4, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT
Here are the latest rumors from around the PL.
Aug 4, 2015, 10:24 AM EDT
Blues boss hugely complimentary of the PL’s other big boys heading into the new season.
Aug 4, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT
Rog, Davo, Mustoe and Earle hang out in the panic room and preview the upcoming PL season.
Aug 4, 2015, 8:37 AM EDT
Eight years after a loan spell, Gradel returns to Bournemouth.
Aug 4, 2015, 7:45 AM EDT
Dutch club reach “agreement in outline” with Bundesliga side Bremen for AJ.
Aug 3, 2015, 9:28 PM EDT
Apparently Louis van Gaal really, really wants Gareth Bale on his team.
Aug 3, 2015, 7:55 PM EDT
Could the USMNT forward be thinking about a move to the Bundesliga?
- PST Extra: Who are the Premier League’s top offseason acquisitions so far? (video) 0
- Premier League defenders: Who’s in our Top Five? And how to choose just five? 5
- Maps, rivals, stadiums: Location of all 20 Premier League teams for 2015-16 season 4
- On his way out of PSG, should Arsenal or Manchester United sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic? 1
- Tuesday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Rose to Chelsea, Traore to Liverpool 1
- AZ Alkmaar agree to sell USMNT forward Aron Johannsson to Werder Bremen 3