Skip to content

U.S. Men’s National Team defense remains unsettled after Mexico draw

Apr 3, 2014, 8:41 AM EDT

Mexico v United States Getty Images

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.

 

Latest Posts
  1. Manchester City signs Turkish teen sensation Enes Unal

    Jul 6, 2015, 11:10 PM EDT

    Chikhura Sachkhere Vs Bursaspor Getty Images

    The youngest ever player to score in Turkey’s Super Lig will now try to find the back of the net at the Etihad.

  2. 2015 Gold Cup: With the rest of CONCACAF making strides, this is USMNT’s chance to show they are, too

    Jul 6, 2015, 10:14 PM EDT

    Jurgen Klinsmann, USMNT Getty Images

    While the rest of CONCACAF closes the gap on the USA and Mexico, it’s time for the USMNT to show they’re still improving, too.

  3. New York City mayor could give USWNT ticker tape parade in Manhattan

    Jul 6, 2015, 9:56 PM EDT

    United States AP

    Are Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd the next athletes to be seen parading down the Canyon of Heroes?

  4. Study names Raheem Sterling most valuable young player in Europe

    Jul 6, 2015, 9:12 PM EDT

    Liverpool v Newcastle United - Premier League Getty Images

    The only question is, who’s willing to pay the price?

  5. After Women’s World Cup triumph, Wambach, Ellis face questions about 2016 Olympics

    Jul 6, 2015, 8:17 PM EDT

    150706-Wambach-Ellis Getty Images

    Will Abby Wambach play at the 2016 Olympics in Rio? She hasn’t yet said.

  6. Real Madrid rejects FC Porto bid for Iker Casillas

    Jul 6, 2015, 7:20 PM EDT

    Real Madrid CF v Getafe CF - La Liga Getty Images

    The goalkeeper’s agent has said Casillas would like a move to Portugal, but Real is playing hardball.

  7. 2015 Copa America: Champions Chile dominate Team of the Tournament

    Jul 6, 2015, 6:26 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwnjyju2ntc3mgexowfjytvhodjkzgu5ytbhmtc3ywqw AP

    In the world of South American football, everything is coming up Chile.

  8. Etienne Capoue joins Watford for club record transfer fee

    Jul 6, 2015, 5:31 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-TOTTENHAM-ASTERAS TRIPOLIS Getty Images

    After a failed spell at Tottenham, the French midfielder is now a Hornet.

  9. 2015 Gold Cup preview: United States look to defend title

    Jul 6, 2015, 4:37 PM EDT

    Championship - 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup Getty Images

    The Gold Cup kicks off tomorrow as Jurgen Klinsmann and the USMNT look to repeat as champions of CONCACAF.

  10. Barcelona officially announce signing of Arda Turan…for now

    Jul 6, 2015, 3:43 PM EDT

    Real Madrid CF v Club Atletico de Madrid - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final: Second Leg Getty Images

    A strange clause in the contract allows Barca to sell the midfielder back to Atletico by July 20.

  11. Former FIFA inspector of 2018, 2022 World Cup bids banned by FIFA; Was leery of Russia, Qatar

    Jul 6, 2015, 3:22 PM EDT

    DOHA, QATAR - SEPTEMBER 16:  Qatar 2022 Bid Chairman H E Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Thani makes a presentation to chief FIFA inspector Harold Mayne-Nicholls to bring to a close FIFA's three day visit to the Gulf state at the Four Seasons hotel on September 16, 2010 in Doha, Qatar.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images for Qatar 2022) Getty Images

    Like the heavily-redacted Garcia report, you can’t help but think we won’t have details until we’re watching the court cases and trials of the arraigned.

  12. Bobby Wood finds a home with 2.Bundesliga side Union Berlin

    Jul 6, 2015, 2:19 PM EDT

    BRAUNSCHWEIG, GERMANY - APRIL 27: Bobby Wood of Aue in action during the Second Bundesliga match between Eintracht Braunschweig and Erzgebirge Aue at Eintracht Stadion on April 27, 2015 in Braunschweig, Germany.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The striker has signed a three-year deal with the second division side.

  13. Steve Nash — yes, that Steve Nash — registered with NPSL side New York Cosmos B

    Jul 6, 2015, 1:46 PM EDT

    Steve Nash

    The Cosmos B can afford to trot out Nash, considering they are 8-0-1 with a plus-34 goal differential under head coach Alecko Eskandarian.

  14. Official: Andrea Pirlo announces his arrival at New York City FC (video)

    Jul 6, 2015, 11:01 AM EDT

    pirlo Getty Images

    Pirlo says an American arrival has been in the cards for a while.

  15. GLORY IN PHOTOS: Our favorite shots from the USWNT’s winning evening in Vancouver

    Jul 6, 2015, 9:51 AM EDT

    VANCOUVER, BC - JULY 05:  Julie Johnston #19 of United States of America celebrates after winning the  FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 final match between USA and Japan at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Plenty more flag-waving winners, emotional players, and post-World Cup couple smooches leap off the Women’s World Cup wire. Shall we look at a few?

  16. With legendary Wambach serving as super sub, the USWNT spun a team title tale

    Jul 6, 2015, 9:17 AM EDT

    USA's head coach Jill Ells (R) celebrate their win over Japan with Abby Wambach after the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup final at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia on July 5, 2015.   AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The U.S. women are World Cup champions for the third time thanks to a full team effort that belied its star-first reputation.

  17. CONCACAF lays out reform plan post-scandal: “People are right to be skeptical”

    Jul 6, 2015, 8:23 AM EDT

    MIAMI BEACH, FL - MAY 27:  FBI agents carry boxes from the headquarters of CONCACAF after it was raided on May 27, 2015 in Miami Beach, Florida. The raid is part of an international investigation of FIFA where nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies.  (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images) Getty Images

    CONCACAF lawyer Sam Gandhi’s tone hits all the right conciliatory notes, something that FIFA has been unable to do it in its response under Sepp Blatter.

Featured video

PST Extra: Done deals & transfer gossip