By: COLIN REESE
Given the question marks about the ability of the United States Men’s National Team’s outside backs, DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders), Chris Klute (Colorado Rapids), and Greg Garza (Tijuana) have become legit outside back options for the United States.
The United States had other outside backs in contention, but they are retired or injured. Steve Cherundolo has retired, and both Eric Lichaj and Timothy Chandler are seriously injured just a few months before the 2014 World Cup.
DeAndre Yedlin and Chris Klute had outstanding 2013 seasons in MLS, and Greg Garza has been a known talent at left back for several years. Yedlin, Garza, and Klute are two-way outside backs, and Yedlin vastly improved his defending ability, which is an area where Klute was always solid.
Although Garza gained a lot of attention for two recent CONCACAF Champions League games against the LA Galaxy, Garza isn’t a left back who just deserves to be on the USMNT roster because of two games. In the two games against the Galaxy, Garza’s abilities were on display to more Americans than had watched him in the past.
Looking toward the 2014 World Cup, Yedlin and Garza or Klute are the strongest right back and left back options respectively. Outside back is a weak area for the United States, and the United States and Jürgen Klinsmann need to go with Yedlin and Klute or Garza for the starting World Cup roster spots not only because they are the only options, but because they are quality two-way outside backs whose qualities and abilities translate to the international level.
Yedlin used to be labeled an exciting two-way right back that was somewhat lacking in sound defensive fundamentals and qualities, but Yedlin’s defending has noticeably improved over time. Yedlin’s attacking has even shown a noticeable improvement in regards to his ability to combine with his teammates and play quality passes from wide areas across the mouth of the goal whether those passes be crosses in the air or passes played on the ground.
One of the key things to remember about the United States Men’s National Team is that many skilled players needed at certain positions are dismissed or overlooked as inexperienced when in fact those players are the best options that the United States has, and this makes them the players most deserving of playing positions where the United States has been weak.
The 2014 World Cup is going to see the USA facing off against very dangerous opponents, and the United States needs to not just stick players playing out of position at outside back that have seen the most playing time under Klinsmann; the United States needs to play the best outside backs it has at its disposal – inexperienced or not.
The only thing preventing Americans and Klinsmann from realizing that Yedlin, Klute, and Garza are the best outside back options is this fear of using new players on the big stage, but the United States doesn’t have a choice – and these outside backs happen to be skilled outside backs, as opposed to merely being the only options.
Yedlin definitely has the speed, skill, and defending to likely hold his own at the World Cup, and Garza and Klute seem to have the same abilities, although Klute is much faster than Garza who himself is much more experienced in big games.
The fact that Yedlin, Klute, and Garza are the best American outside back options is a reality based on all the information available, and from an American perspective, it’s great to see many Americans showing their support for these players online and via social media.
With Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley being the likely starting defensive midfielders for the USMNT in the World Cup, Yedlin, Klute, and Garza will have additional defensive support from international-caliber defensive midfielders that are both excellent defenders who cover a lot of territory.
The situation of the American center backs is a different story, but Yedlin, Garza, and Klute offer American soccer fans the hope of effective and exciting outside backs at the World Cup, if they are selected by Jürgen Klinsmann.