By: Colin Reese
Jürgen Klinsmann has never really proven that Brad Evans and DaMarcus Beasley are better right and left backs than Eric Lichaj and Fabian Johnson, and starting capable outside backs will be essential for the United States Men’s National Team’s chances in the 2014 World Cup.
Putting Brad Evans on the roster to play as a central midfielder instead of Kyle Beckerman would logically make sense given Evans’ superior speed and ability to defend and go forward compared to Beckerman, but why not use the outside back roster spots for players like Eric Lichaj or Jonathan Spector when he’s healthy?
Whether you think Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler are the best USMNT center back options, at least they play those positions well in MLS and in CONCACAF – the only question mark is how well they’ll be able to handle better World Cup attackers.
When looking at the American defense, starting Gonzalez with Besler is understandable because they are two of the best American center backs in MLS, and they are used to playing together.
On the other hand, continuing to start Evans at right back with Beasley at left back is hard to understand, but there is a possibility that young outside backs like DeAndre Yedlin are winning over Jürgen Klinsmann, even if Chris Klute was cut from the most recent roster before even being allowed to play in a friendly to show what he could do.
Despite the fact that it would appear that the United States could use all the help it can get in the defense, it’s understandable that many people have reservations about incorporating young or fairly young players like DeAndre Yedlin, Shane O’Neill, Chris Klute, and Andrew Farrell into the United States’ roster so close to a World Cup, but the choice of Evans and Beasley as the favored outside backs is not a very prudent or popular choice.
Klinsmann clearly doesn’t favor the use of new players on a national team close to a World Cup, but why Eric Lichaj or Geoff Cameron and Fabian Johnson aren’t the preferred starting outside backs for Klinsmann remains a mystery.
If the United States isn’t going to start the new crop of young MLS defenders, then starting some of the more experienced and proven defenders makes more sense than starting a Back Four comprised of Evans, Gonzalez, Besler, and Beasley.
Since Klinsmann wants to start Jermaine Jones over Geoff Cameron as the defensive midfield partner for Michael Bradley, then why isn’t Cameron starting over Gonzalez at center back?
In order to perform well at the World Cup, The United States Men’s National Team does have an experienced Back Four that it can start: Eric Lichaj, Michael Orozco, Geoff Cameron, and Fabian Johnson.
The question is why these defenders are considered inferior to Evans, Gonzalez, Besler, and Johnson.
Lichaj and Johnson are more capable defenders and better attackers than Evans and Beasley, and Orozco and Cameron are quicker, more skilled, and better defenders than Gonzalez and Besler, in addition to playing in better leagues (even if Cameron has been used as an outside back in England).
Orozco has a lot of experience marking better attackers in La Liga MX than one finds in MLS, and Cameron is not only one of the most skilled American defenders in terms of his defending, speed, and skill on the ball, but he is also one of the most technically-skilled American footballers in general.
Besler has made a fairly strong case for himself given his speed, his defending, and his skill on the ball, but Gonzalez has hardly proven to be better than Orozco or Cameron, or Maurice Edu for that matter.
The failure to test Cameron or Orozco with Besler more is another bizarre feature of Klinsmann’s Back Fours.
Many observers view defenders like Yedlin, O’Neill, Farrell, and Klute as players who aren’t ready to be playing for the United States, but surely Lichaj, Orozco, Cameron, and Johnson are ready to be playing as the USMNT’s Back Four.
Therefore, the question remains: do Americans want Evans, Gonzalez, Besler, and Beasley as the American Back Four in Group G of the 2014 World Cup, or do they want Lichaj, Orozco, Cameron, and Johnson?
While it’s possible that Klinsmann could start Cameron, Gonzalez, Besler, and Johnson as the Back Four, it doesn’t look like that will be the case either, even if there are several months before the World Cup roster is announced.
Only time will tell what the USA Back Four is for the World Cup, but if Klinsmann doesn’t want to use new and/or young American defenders, then World Soccer Source supports the use of the following Back Four listed below:
RIGHT BACK: Eric LICHAJ
CENTER BACK: Michael OROZCO
CENTER BACK: Geoff CAMERON
LEFT BACK: Fabian JOHNSON