Photo by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
The position across the defense that has historically given the U.S. Men’s National Team the most trouble in solving is left back, but it is the other fullback spot that is likely to have Jurgen Klinsmann more carefully weighing his options ahead of next month’s round of World Cup qualifying.
With Steve Cherundolo all but out for September’s games against Costa Rica and Mexico due to the third knee surgery he has had this year, right back has become a position that is fairly open. Yes, Brad Evans seems like the penciled-in starter for the road match in San Jose and the home game in Columbus given his impressive string of starts for the U.S. this summer, but who is brought in as his competition is still relatively unknown.
That does not mean Klinsmann lacks options from which to choose from at right back. There are actually several players in contention, including Michael Parkhurst and Timmy Chandler, but Klinsmann will need to figure out which one or two in addition to Evans will give the Americans the best probability of grabbing six points and moving one step closer to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Here’s a closer look at the right backs who could potentially be called in by Klinsmann in September:
The odds-on favorite to line up against Costa Rica and Mexico. Evans enjoyed a dream summer with the U.S., one in which he boosted his stock tremendously with solid performances against the likes of Germany and Honduras. Evans has also been given a taste of what it’s like to play on the road on the international level, starting and faring well in matches in Jamaica and Bosnia, so it would be a big surprise if he is not the player lining up at right back on Sept. 6.
Many observers have long felt that Lichaj deserves a look under Klinsmann, but the reality of the situation is that the versatile defender has not played all that consistently at the club level since the German was appointed the U.S. head coach back in July 2011. That has seemingly changed now, with Lichaj receiving start after start and performing well for Nottingham Forest at the beginning of their season in the Championship. Lichaj is unlikely to be used as a starter in next month’s qualifiers, but do not be shocked if he sneaks on the roster.
Parkhurst is in a precarious situation. He is not seeing the field at all for FC Augsburg, struggling to even make the bench consistently, but the veteran defender was a solid contributor to the U.S. team that lifted the Gold Cup trophy in July. Klinsmann has called upon Parkhurst in the past and his versatility (he played left back vs. Guatemala during the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying) could see him summoned despite his lack of playing time in the Bundesliga.
Klinsmann made it clear earlier this month that Chandler is currently behind several other players in the depth chart, but the German-American is playing on a weekly basis for FC Nurnberg. Still, Chandler is the right back after Cherundolo with the best offensive tools and that combined with his steady dose of playing time may have Klinsmann leaning towards bringing Chandler back into the fold for depth purposes.
Playing right back at a high level with Stoke City, Cameron clearly seems like a candidate to potentially start at that spot for the United States. But Cameron is the player of this bunch who offers the least going forward, a tactic Klinsmann clearly favors, and that hinders his chances of playing, much less starting on the right side of defense. Cameron, seeing some time there should not completely be ruled out, however, as he will likely be on the roster and in-game situations could dictate whether he is used in the position that he plays at so regularly for his club.
The dark horse of the group, Beltran could make his way onto the roster if Klinsmann is unconvinced by the majority of his other options. The Real Salt Lake defender has been included in several of the previous camps and his familiarity with the position will keep him in the conversation.
What do you make of the U.S.’s right back situation? Which of these players would you call in? Who would you start vs. Mexico and Costa Rica?
Share your thoughts below.