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. Report: Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge to miss a month with hip injury

    Mar 26, 2015, 7:17 PM EDT

    Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool FC Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool FC

    Another month out for Sturridge, just when Liverpool’s top-four dreams rest on his shoulders the most.

  2. UEFA fines Malmo $110,000 for “poor pitch” in Champions League, but racism still only worth $11,000

    Mar 26, 2015, 6:54 PM EDT

    Swedbank Stadium, Malmo FF Swedbank Stadium, Malmo FF

    You couldn’t get this one anymore wrong, UEFA. 10-times worse than racism? Not OK.

  3. Hope Solo says she entered therapy during 30-day suspension from USWNT

    Mar 26, 2015, 5:54 PM EDT

    Hope Solo, USWNT Hope Solo, USWNT

    Solo said her 30-day suspension was full of therapy, apologies to her teammates and getting herself right for this summer’s World Cup.

  4. EURO 2016 preview: Qualifying resumes for England, Spain, Germany, Italy

    Mar 26, 2015, 5:04 PM EDT

    EURO 2016 EURO 2016

    This weekend’s EURO 2016 qualifiers marks the halfway point of the group stage, which means it’s do-or-die time for a few hopefuls, and some giants.

  5. Soccer’s rich list: Jose Mourinho best paid coach, here’s the top 20

    Mar 26, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT

    Chelsea FC v FC Schalke 04 - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    The “Special One” received a rather special amount of cash in 2014.

  6. Barcelona’s Xavi set to sign deal in Qatar; will not join New York City FC, MLS

    Mar 26, 2015, 2:42 PM EDT

    Barcelona's midfielder Xavi Hernandez ce Barcelona's midfielder Xavi Hernandez ce

    Xavi is heading to Qatar on a three-year deal, will get paid $11 million per season.

  7. Soccer’s rich list: Who are the top 20 highest earning players?

    Mar 26, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT

    Lionel Messi, Neymar Lionel Messi, Neymar

    Here’s a look at the players with the highest revenue in 2014.

  8. VIDEO: Watch Alexis Sanchez play the piano to John Legend song

    Mar 26, 2015, 12:50 PM EDT

    Sanchez piano

    When he’s not ripping apart Premier League defenses, Sanchez loves to unwind by tickling the ivory.

  9. Report: Brazilian striker Luiz Adriano interesting Liverpool, Arsenal

    Mar 26, 2015, 11:28 AM EDT

    Turkey v Brazil International friendly match Turkey v Brazil International friendly match

    Shakhtar’s star striker set to leave in December when his contract runs out.

  10. Morgan Schneiderlin wants Southampton exit if they fail to make UEFA Champions League

    Mar 26, 2015, 10:21 AM EDT

    Schneiderlin Getty Images

    Saints midfielder speaks of his desire to play in the UCL, reassess his future this summer.

  11. Theo Walcott denies fall out with Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger over contract talks

    Mar 26, 2015, 8:45 AM EDT

    Arsenal v Leicester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Walcott denies a “bust-up” with Wenger over contract talks.

  12. Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil believes he can win Ballon d’Or award to silence critics

    Mar 26, 2015, 7:58 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    The German international playmaker is aiming to join the Messi’s and Ronaldo’s of this world.

  13. Union’s Zach Pfeffer given 2nd game for elbow, Manneh also suspended

    Mar 25, 2015, 11:31 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 11.20.07 PM

    The MLS disciplinary committee was busy after this last weekend.

  14. Messi, Argentina attend Wizards vs Pacers NBA game

    Mar 25, 2015, 9:54 PM EDT

    Argentina AP

    All the priceless images and marketable moments from the Argentinian national team’s visit to the Verizon Center.

  15. Sami Khedira confirms he will leave Real Madrid at the end of the season

    Mar 25, 2015, 9:01 PM EDT

    Khedira Getty Images

    Having won just about every possible trophy in his five years at the Bernabeu, the German is moving on.

  16. Perry Kitchen not suspended for apparent stamp at Red Bull Arena

    Mar 25, 2015, 7:58 PM EDT

    Kitchen AP

    The D.C. United midfielder appears to be getting off lightly, and the Red Bull captain isn’t pleased.

Featured video

Week 30: Headline PL moment