Lichaj gets look at left back in Aston Villa reserve match

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Photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com

United States fullback Eric Lichaj has completed his return from a hip injury that kept him out of action for the better part of the last five months, making the bench for Aston Villa's first team in its last two matches. Despite Lichaj being a candidate to go on loan upon his return, Aston Villa appears to be remain committed to seeing what he can do for the club, even if that means moving him to a new spot on the field.

Lichaj played 90 minutes at left back during Aston Villa's reserve match against Fulham on Tuesday, getting a rare look at the position with the Premier League club. Aston Villa won, 3-0, and Lichaj came close to scoring according to a match report, having a left-footed shot get tipped over the bar.

Lichaj at left back is not a new development overall, but him playing there for Aston Villa is.

He played both fullback positions while on loan at Leeds United last year, and he also played at left back for the national team during this past summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup. He started the final against Mexico on the left, but he had to move to right back after Steve Cherundolo exited the game with an early injury.

The 23-year-old defender remains a candidate for an emergency loan in order to receive more first-team minutes, but Tuesday's match is a further indication that Aston Villa might not want to send him elsewhere after doing so in each of the last three years. 

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What do you think of this development? Do you think Lichaj is better-served on the right or the left? Who are your ideal fullbacks for the national team going forward?

Share your thoughts below.

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34 Responses to Lichaj gets look at left back in Aston Villa reserve match

  1. RLW2020 says:

    Villa; Lichaj and Guzan play them or let them leave! those 2 have spent their time being the next one of the bench.

  2. Grubbsbl says:

    Cue USMMT focused freak out posts…

    But this is good news. He impressed at the Gold Cup, so hopefully he gets back to playing regularly. Lichaj needs first team minutes to get back into the national squad and cracking Villa current back four wont be easy. But I hope he does.

  3. jonk says:

    It’s disappointing that they both don’t get playing time, despite being there for so long. But at least they are both still young (for their respective positions) so it’s not like they’ve completely been left to rot.

  4. Alex says:

    Hell both Aston Villa fullbacks look awful. Hutton and Warnock?? One shudders at the thought. I can see Lichaj getting minutes on either side soon enough. And I think he looked better at LB in the Gold Cup than Chandler has looked in friendlies. Once Cherundolo hangs up his boots I’d love for Chandler to be on the right and Lichaj on the left.

  5. CroCajun says:

    Where ever he can find time on the pitch is good for me.

    I love the way Lichaj is developing. Big fan of his.

  6. Jamie Z. says:

    I would be surprised to see Lichaj at left back on a long-term basis, as Villa have recently purchased Enda Stevens to fill that role. If he features on the left in the near future, it will likely be due to the fact that Villa feel Stevens isn’t ready yet and that McLeish is more concerned about Warnock’s performance on the left than he is about Hutton’s (equally awful) performance on the right.

  7. Villain-from-Texas says:

    Warnock has been woeful this season. So I won’t be surprised if Lichaj gets a run at left back. He’s ahead of Stevens at the moment, I would think, as the next-in-line.

  8. pd says:

    I kind of this this is a moot point. The game has evolved to a point where all sideline players are expected to “switch fields” for extended periods of time. The more time any of our wingers and fullbacks get on the field in match conditions, on the right or left side, the better. Players will always have their preferences, but professionals do the job that’s asked of them to a level where that preference is not shown. if this kind of development makes Lichaj that kind of player then so much the better. If he gets that at AV or on loan doesn’t much matter as long as he’s getting match minutes.

    Keepers are a different case, as having several seasons apprenticing can be very helpful and I bet Guzan has learned loads under Friedel and Given. That said, it is time for him to move on, so I hope a long term loan or trade to another club is in his near future as well.

  9. Grubbsbl says:

    Maybe I am reading both of these posts incorrectly, but how does simply being “there” a long time justify claims to playing time? You have to be better than your competition to play. And unfortunately both Guzan and Lichaj are going up against reasonable competition. Given has been a top ten goalie in EPL for nearly a decade (let’s be honest: Guzan is decent but is he so talented that you would play him over Shay Given if you were a manager whose’s job security was questionable?) While Hutton, Warnock and Culluer aren’t world beaters, they certainly aren’t terrible. Lichaj looked inexperienced, while showing signs of potential, in his few EPL chances last season. So it is understandable that he hasn’t played since he returned from injury. The fact that he made the bench suggests Villa rates him, so I hope he seizes his chance.

  10. Lampard in the End Zone says:

    As a Villa fan, Hutton has the tackling ability of De Jong and the grace of Balotelli. He is a red card waiting to happen every time he steps out on the pitch.

  11. wilyboy says:

    I hope he gets more time at leftback for Villa, it seems more than possible.

    Some argue that Timmy Chandler is a better left back, but one thing that can’t be argued is that Chandler is a phenomenal right back. If Lichaj can fill that problem spot, as he did to great effect at the Gold Cup, then it is simply a waste not to let Chandler do what he does best.

  12. Brian says:

    Chandler and Lichaj are both better at RB than LB.
    Lichaj has a smaller drop off in ability than Chandler does when each of them switches to LB.
    Even though Chandler is the better overall RB and probably the better overall player, Lichaj is the better overall LB. I also still feel that Dolo is the best overall RB among the 3 of them.

    Until Lichaj gets fully healthy and gets first team action, keep Dolo at RB and Chandler at LB. If Lichaj does get healthy and starts playing for Aston Villa’s first team (or gets emergency-loaned somewhere), than I wouldn’t be against keeping Dolo (assuming he’s still healthy and going strong) at RB and putting Lichaj at LB, with Chandler as the top backup to both positions and as potential Right Wing starter/2nd half impact sub.

  13. vik says:

    Well, both Guzan and Lichaj have impressed when they’ve played. In fact, I think Lichaj would have played a lot more this season if he had not been out with a hip injury; Warnock and Hutton have been terrible at times.
    They deserve more time since they are young, promising, and have done their jobs well when asked to.

  14. chris says:

    Lichaj is a beast. Love that he’s young. Hopefully he keeps developing as a LB. I like a USMNT lineup with both Lichaj and Chandler in it.

  15. Award says:

    It’s no secret that Dolo is slowing down, and that he has been in and out of the starting line-up for Hannover. Lichaj and Chandler are the future outside backs for the USMNT. Lichaj at LB and Chandler at RB, but with that being said right now Dolo is still the guy at RB, but not for the long term. I forsee Chandler taking over at RB before the Gold Cup in 2013. Chandler at RB and Lichaj at LB.

  16. Lost in Space says:

    For the short term (6-12 months) I’d be happy to have Fabian Johnson on as the LB, with Lichaj as the Back-up and Chandler as the RB, with Dolo as the Back-up.

    Use Shea as the LM, with Johnson as the Back-up, and Donovan as the RM (Backup TBD). In my opinion this’ll give us the speed and skill on the wings to really pressure while keeping a strong defense.

    If/When other options at LB & RB are found/developed than we can look at moving Johnson back into the Midfield and letting Dolo move on towards his retirement.

  17. Tyler says:

    I’m a Villa fan as well. I know the fans like him a lot, and he likes being with the team. His falling out with Houllier after one bad game is probably the only reason he hasn’t seen the field much (and of course the injury). When Mcleish came in, he was hurt just when it looked like he was breaking through. I’m not sure what Guzan’s future is with the club, but I’d guess Lichaj is going to see a lot of time next season. Lerner scaling back player wages, and the loss of a couple defenders should help.

  18. biff says:

    That is exactly what I would like to see, Chandler tried out as a right winger. I think the kid could not only be an assist machine from that position with his great crosses, but could also score some key goals now and then. Chandler will no doubt be leaving Nurnberg this summer for a better team, and would not be surprised to see his new club, if lacking an already established righter winger, experimenting with Chandler at that spot.

  19. a spanish announcer guy says:

    LEE-high!

  20. jon says:

    it’s about time. lichaj and chandler at lb and rb in 2014, respctively.

  21. abc says:

    My post-Dolo Era (which should begin NOW) fullback depth chart:

    LW
    Brek Shea
    Fabian Johnson

    LB
    Fabian Johnson
    Eric Lichaj

    RB
    Timmy Chandler
    Eric Lichaj

    If Johnson is ahead of Shea (which he very well may be), then Lichaj starts at LB.

  22. Eurosnob says:

    Guzan performed really well, when given an opportunity. The problem was that Villa’s boneheaded management deceided to spend 3.5 million pounds to loan Given, when they already had a very reliable and less expensive keeper, rather than strengthen the squad in other areas, where they really needed to improve. No wonder that Villa is currently in the 13th place. The problem for Guzan is that it does not really matter whether he outperforms Given – Villa is not paying this kind of rental fee for Given to sit on the bench. When the team that sits in 13th place in the league cannot find playing time for good players like Lichaj and Guzan, one has to question the competency of its management.

  23. GW says:

    Are you sure Given is on loan to Villa?

    What I read says he was bought for the 3.5 mill.

    I question whether both will be there after this season. If Guzan signed that new contract for a good raise then why tie up all that money in keepers?

  24. GW says:

    Two things for you and Brian to think about:

    1.)If Lichaj plays left back, how will he hook up with Shea?

    2.) JK does not agree with either of you:

    “Such was Chandler’s display against Les Bleus that Klinsmann suggested that picking a left back for the squad is no longer an issue. At club level with Nuremberg, Chandler has done his thing at right back.

    “I think we have a highly talented player here,” Klinsmann said in a news conference after the game. “He’s a raw talent. We can develop that one step at a time. He has that starting position. It’s his. And he’s doing very well in that process.”

    Chandler, possessing the speed of a winger, found himself in dangerous positions more than left-sided midfielder Brek Shea. It’s the type of attacking play Klinsmann wants to see. ”

  25. Eurosnob says:

    My mistake, I was thinking about Joe Hart’s loan (ManCity loaned him out when Given joined them). Given has a 5-year contract with Villa. I still say it’s a bad management to pay 3.5 mil transfer fee for a 35 year old keeper, when a younger reliable keeper is already with the club and the money can be used to address other more urgent needs on the squad.

  26. wilyboy says:

    1) Easy, you try it. See how it works. (It should be noted that Shea hasn’t reached his 2011 MLS form in a while, and that Fabian Johnson is waiting securely in the wings).

    2) Lichaj has not featured prominently for JK for the same reason Torres and Holden haven’t: He was injured.

    Granted, it would require JK to shift things around, but if Lichaj begins to see time at leftback in the EPL, the chances of two international quality players starting at their club positions is not outlandish at all.

  27. TomG says:

    I still think Fabian is wasted at LB with us, since his superior technical skill in more necessary in the midfield for us. He can also play CM in a 4-4-2 or LM or LW in a 4-3-3. While we are throwing out lineups, I will try my hand (what I’d LIKE to see, not nec. what Klinsi would do), for what it’s worth (aaabsolutely nothing, huh).

    In a 4-4-2 (treat as a flat 4-4-2, though may diamond the MF and slot Deuce underneath Jozy):

    ——- Deuce ——- Jozy ——-
    Shea — Fabian — MB — Donovan
    Chandler — Whitbread — Gooch — Williams

    Much as I revere Boca’s years of service, it’s time to see if Zak or Cameron can do something next to Gooch. Lichaj may beat out Williams once he is in form.

    Holden’s return might change everything, of course.

    For a 4-3-3, I’d like:

    —Deuce—Jozy—Donovan—
    —-Shea—-MB—-Fabian—-
    Chandler—Whitbread—Gooch—Williams

    Gatt and Gyau might begin to push for a wing spot in the next couple years as might Boyd and Teal/CJ at F. The CBs are pretty much a turkey shoot with Boca and Gooch aging and a host of younger maybes and Zak/Cameron both entering their primes. Sacha, Beckerman, Jones all provide good CM depth.

  28. GW says:

    1.) I wouldn’t be so quick to dispose of Shea.

    2.) Lichaj was unimpressive in the Gold Cup final. His give away in front of the goal led directly to Mexico’s tying goal.

    I’ve heard some try to excuse that by blaming Bornstein for the everything that ever went wrong when he was anywhere near the US team (including the economy and global warming) but the fact remains switching from left back to right back during the course of a game is hardly uncommon and right back is his favored position so he should have made the transition easily.

    I like Lichaj but he is not as good, as proven and as accomplished a soccer player as Chandler.

    He has a grand total of 5 EPL league appearances over the years for a funky Villa team. He couldn’t convince O’Neill he was a starter not just good old anti American Houllier. Chandler has been as starter in the Bundesliga now for about a year’s worth of games.

    Besides you may be premature in writing off Dolo, who seems to have regained his starting spot for Hannover as well as Morales of Hertha, who JK seems to rate very highly.

    If Dolo is still producing in 2014 he starts at right back, no question. JK has made that clear. After all JK was 33-34 when he scored 3 goals in the 1998 World Cup. And Holland’s left back this past World Cup was 35 year old Gio Van Bronckhorst, Reyna’s old teamate with Rangers.

  29. GW says:

    Everyone seems so keen on putting Johnson at leftback.

    Right now that seems like a big waste. Chandler has that well covered.

    Johnson is one of the few US players I’ve seen in the last few years who could be a genuine attacking threat. Chandler is the other one.

    Right now only Dempsey and Donovan fit that description. Shea might one day if he develops further but Fabian is more polished and has better instincts. He has that same cold blooded attitude that LD and Duece have. Shea still lacks that.

    If you put him at left back and have him basically do nothing but launch attacks you might make a case for it but from what I’ve read Johnson isn’t keen on playing left back.

  30. wilyboy says:

    I’m fully aware of the rational behind all of these arguments, and summarily disagree with all of them. That includes Dolo for Brazil (the US will not get away with a aged back line, the Netherlands has something called Dutch Offense to make up for it).

    Chandler is a passable left back, and an unbelievable right back. He’s better than Dolo. The only reason we don’t play him there is our black hole problem on the opposite side.

    Which brings us to Lichaj, who is undergoing a fight for starting minutes at leftback. He was a lifesaver at leftback in the gold cup until he was switched… and then Mexico scored every single goal by raping Bornstein’s side. Lichaj didn’t cover a runner tapping in a perfect assist by Gio, who was not handled by Bornstein.

    You want to defend Bornstein, don’t choose this game. He let them in because he’s not a good defender.

  31. GW says:

    Holland is far from the only team that ever had a 30-35 something back in the World Cup. By the way Van Bronckhorst scored arguably the goal of the tournament against Uruguay in the semifinal, a 35-yard bomb. And that vaunted Dutch Offense?

    Except for a 2-0 win over Denmark in the group stages they won every game by one goal until the final which they lost 1-0. So don’t tell me they didn’t have a tidy defense.

    As for defending Bornstein, who said anything about that? Watch the replay. The second Mexican goal, Gio (I think it was him) cut inside JB to shoot left footed at goal but the shot was going out of bounds to Howard’s right…until it hit Lichaj who pushed it weakly to Howard, who had Guardado draped all over him and Andres put it in.

    None of the US players looked good but JB more or less did his job. His man’s shot was going out of bounds without a Mexican anywhere near until it hit Lichaj, who botched the clearance.

    Should Dolo not be the right back, Chandler will man one of the fullback slots but Lichaj is not next in line. He has been out too long and has yet to prove he can ever win enough minutes at Villa to get called up. He has his work cut out for him.

    As far as JK is concerned, Chandler is more than a passable left back, he is the starter. And right now if Dolo is out, there are any number of possibilities for right back besides Chandler or Lichaj. Morales, Williams, Loyd, Spector(who has been regular there for Birmingham), maybe even Josh Gatt. Lichaj cannot take for granted that he will get back into the squad.

  32. Joamiq says:

    Lichaj is better than Hutton right now. How can Villa not see this?

  33. Gooner16 says:

    Hutton is a truly awful left back, his reactions against Arsenal this year show hís “experience”shouldn’t count against Lichaj. Lichaj also was fantastic against Tottenham last year, putting Bale in his pocket and keeping him there all game. Lichaj was solid this last summer at the Gold Cup, despite being played out of position. He’ll get his time, hopefully he takes the chance!