By: Colin Reese
With so little time before the 2014 World Cup, the United States Men’s National Team should make Michael Orozco and Geoff Cameron the starting center back pairing right now.
The selection of the center back duo is affected by the starting defensive midfielders because starting Cameron over Jermaine Jones means the center of the American defense will be without Cameron, and at this point, Cameron is the United States’ best center back option along with Orozco.
While Geoff Cameron might perform his best as a defensive midfielder, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley are two formidable defensive midfielders. The problem with the Jones and Bradley two-man defensive midfield has been that both players want to make attacking forays, which leaves the defense vulnerable.
Michael Bradley should be tasked with playing directly in front of the Back Four because he can both protect the center of the American defense, and he can be something of a passing orchestrator from deep in the midfield.
Jones is a faster player with underrated technical ability and passing skill, and his superior athleticism should be maximized as the more box-to-box of the defensive midfielders.
Both Cameron and Orozco not only have the defensive skill-set to play the center back roles, but they also have the skill on the ball and quickness needed to give the United States international-caliber defenders with enough technical quality and athleticism to give the United States a capable center back pairing.
There’s no reason to believe that both Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler won’t be susceptible to the same types of incisive passes that sliced and diced Oguchi Onyewu and John Anthony Brooks against Ukraine.
If opposing teams are left open to thread passes through the USA’s Back Four, then the United States will be in a lot of trouble in the 2014 World Cup.
Starting Jones and Bradley as a line of two defensive midfielders to protect Orozco and Cameron is the wise tactical decision to make the center of the American defense hard to penetrate while using players with the skill to keep possession after defensive stops, as opposed to players that will concede possession with long clearances when there is time and space to play more intelligent passes.
Michael Orozco and Geoff Cameron will need to establish chemistry to really perform their best in the center of the American defense, and although there isn’t much time to do this outside of the limited games and practices before the World Cup, Jürgen Klinsmann would be wise to use the limited time he has to get Orozco and Cameron used to playing together.
Orozco and Cameron play the same style of soccer, and two center backs that look to play one-to-two touch soccer gives the United States a center back pairing with players that understand how to work the ball out of the back with combination play and some dribbling.
These two center backs might not be used to playing together, but they understand how to play soccer the right way, in addition to being aggressive and skilled defenders with the physical gifts needed to play international soccer.
With Tim Howard in goal and Orozco and Cameron manning the center of the defense, a Front Six made up of Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, Benny Feilhaber, Clint Dempsey, and Jozy Altidore should prove to be a quality Starting XI where only the outside backs are a question mark – the United States might as well start Jonathan Spector and Fabian Johnson at the outside back spots (at least they are proven international and club level performers against real competition).
The only other outside back options are Eric Lichaj along with the new MLS defenders: Chris Klute, DeAndre Yedlin, Andrew Farrell, and Kofi Sarkodie. The new crop of MLS outside backs are inexperienced, but the talent and physical gifts are there.
Defenders don’t have the luxury of making mistakes due to their proximity to their own goal, and Orozco and Cameron are the most capable of limiting mistakes of all of the other American center back options.
Both center backs are experienced enough to not be considered risky or inexperienced choices, and they are likely the United States’ best hope of deploying a solid center back pairing.