Spector back on field for Birmingham reserves

JonathanSpectorBirminghamCity2 (Getty)

By DAN KARELL

Jonathan Spector’s injury problems could finally be in the rear mirror.

The American defender is set to play for the Birmingham City Under-21s on Monday against Sheffield United, in what will be Spector’s first match since last October. Spector has remained on the sidelines with a thigh muscle injury after missing large portions of last season with similar thigh problems. Spector tore his thigh muscle in May 2012.

The 27-year-old Chicago native was re-signed by Birmingham City head coach Lee Clark because of his versatility, able to play anywhere along the backline and even in center midfield. Mainly Spector had been playing at right back or in central midfield for the Blues. Spector’s last official appearance came on Oct. 5 in a 2-1 defeat to Bolton.

Spector was subsequently injured the next week in training and hasn’t seen the field since.

Spector’s injury troubles have likely hurt his chances of making the U.S. Men’s National Team squad for the 2014 World Cup this summer. Spector was a member of the 2010 World Cup squad, though he didn’t appear in any of the USMNT’s four games, and he even took part in World Cup qualifying for the 2006 World Cup as an 18-year-old.

If he’s able to get through the reserves match on Monday, Spector could make his full return on Saturday at Blackpool.

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What do you think of this news? Glad to see Spector back on the field? Think he has any chance of breaking into the USMNT 23-man roster?

Share your thoughts below.

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17 Responses to Spector back on field for Birmingham reserves

  1. Curtis says:

    Glad to see him back in training. No chance of making the WC roster, barring a horrific rash of injuries on the backline.

  2. Chris says:

    Spector has generally been solid for the US in the past (his delivery from the right wing during the 09 Confed Cup still has me drooling) and he offers good versatility, but at this point I think his WC chances are a bit thin. Jack of all trades, master of none.

    • Curtis says:

      Agreed, Chris — although I never rated anything Spector did as particularly “drool-worthy”. He always has seemed a bit lost and wide-eyed to me, be it with the USMNT or in the EPL/Championship. He does offer good versatility, but I think that might be about all he offers, IMHO.

    • DR7_Liverpool_ says:

      Well said Chris. Can definitely see Klinsi calling him in for the European training camp though.

  3. user222 says:

    all things being equal… is Spector an improvement of Evans at RB…

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      I disagree. In the Confed Cup 2009 games where we got our tail whooped he would get burned like crumbs in a toaster. Every so often he has a hard tackling gamel. Then someone runs right by him like he was standing still a la Castillo and I remember why he’s not particularly useful.

      After he got burned a few times that way at RB the cute idea du jour became to try and play him at DM but I think his footspeed hurts him there still and we have plenty of talent at central midfield already.

      There are a handful of players like Boca, Gooch, Goodson, and Spector (arguably Parhurst too) who are simply unable to keep up defensively with an open running soccer game, and I am leery of selecting based on the hopeful idea that they can keep the game in front of them with smarts. Soccer is a running sport.

      • Nate Dollars says:

        hm, i don’t really remember him getting burned that much in the confed cup, but if it was against brazil, italy, or spain, then i don’t know that you could fault him more than any other of our prospective fullbacks. what i remember is that he was one of our standout players of the tournament; he pretty much filled in perfectly for cherundolo, and his crossing was beautiful and dangerous (like me).

        that said, we were certainly playing bunker ball at that point, and, like you, i’m not so sure he has the consistent pace to keep up in our current system.

        • The Imperative Voice says:

          I felt like Brazil in particular abused him making corner runs to the endline. People may recall that was the game we were up 2-0 in the final and lost 3-2.

          Bornstein had a couple bad days and he’s never to be seen again but Spector getting burned didn’t help en route to that Brazil reversal and he should be no more immune.

          I’d go with any of the prospective RBs save Parkhurst, and maybe even convert an athletic LB, before I’d let him cost us on speed as a RB.

          • GW says:

            Mr. I Voice,

            Spector has been in England since the 2004-5 season.

            He has had his injury issues and missed a lot of games. He would have made the 2006 team except for a late separated shoulder injury.

            Still he has 147 appearances in the Premiership and 87 in the Championship which is probably quite a bit more than any of the other prospective fullback candidates.

            That is a lot of appearances for a guy who is “unable to keep up defensively”. And they are still sending him out there. What do those managers know that you do not?

            You are condemning him based on some games against Italy, Brazil and Spain. I saw all those games and I’m pretty sure Spector did well all things considered. I doubt that any of the current fullback candidates, except maybe Chandler and FJ could have done much better. Those teams make a lot of defenders look bad. The point is the defense and the team did well overall and the Confederations Cup tournament was one a high point for the USMNT. And Spector put in some wonderful crosses.

            Your view of Spector seems quite myopic. In the past you have stated your disdain for smart players.

            At this point if he comes back and does very well for Birmingham the only problem with him would be the same problem that Dolo, if he came back, would face.

            And that is could these guys hold up to physically taxing WC? I’m no doctor but right now I don’t see it.

            • The Imperative Voice says:

              It’s nothing against “smart” players, I think knowing how to play defense for defense’s sake is the foundation of an excellent back.

              I just think people who like pretty and/or smart soccer tend to overlook the physical aspects of the game, such as whether a defender can stay with his man if he has to run.

              Boca, Pope, we’ve actually had quite a few smart backs who were also athletic and can score goals on corners, stay with their men, and otherwise physically dominate their position as well as be sharp mentally.

              Dolo that you named was also a mobile wing back, fast to stay with people on defense, but smart about his defense. It’s not an either/or, I just think it’s overrated for for slow defenders to try to get by on smarts. My experience has been they leave you high and dry often enough for the technical or intellectual value to be questionable relative to the goals allowed because they simply can’t keep up.

              Granted, there is a flip side, Cameron is not the brightest but is an athlete. I think that’s roughly as useful as bright but slow. The best defenders are both.

              • GW says:

                Mr. IV
                Spector is a ten year pro in the EPL and the Championship and a US international. He is no John Terry or Paolo Maldini but to suggest that he doesn’t understand the physical aspects of good defense is a bit much.

                You say it’s not an either or thing but then you condemn him on the basis of a few games where he has defensive lapses against some of the best attackers in the world. Like I said there must be some idiot coaches who keep sending him out there all these years, usually as a defender, since the Confederations Cup.

                Cameron is much fitter and probably faster but he is also still an international newbie and I suspect he could learn a thing or two from Spector. For that matter Lichaj is almost certainly fitter, stronger and faster than Spector; but from what I’ve seen he is not as smart, not as savvy, not as quick on the uptake as Spector.

                Johann Cruyff has often said the fastest man on the field is the one who starts running first. If you look at the Barca guys I doubt most of them give Usain Bolt any trouble but because they usually “start running first” to their teammate’s passes, they generally leave bigger, faster, stronger, more defensively sound players standing in place looking slow of mind if not of foot. That is what Cruyff meant.

                Make up speed is great but it is not 100%. Jonathan Bornstein, who was not as bad as everyone seems to think, was arguably always one of the fastest US players on the team during his tenure.

                The thing is, you speak of defense in isolation when in reality, good teams play team defense.

                My personal favorite defensive performance was when Fabio Capello’s 1994 AC Milan side beat Barca 4-0 in the European Cup final. No matter where the Barca guys were when they had the ball it seemed like there were at least three Milan players on you. And that kind of defense is not an accident nor is it a product of superior physical talent or superior size and speed.

                It comes from smart coaching and smart, disciplined players.

                Obviously, we all want smart, powerful, fast, strong, tall defenders but in the absence of the ideal as long as the player has certain minimum levels of ability, if I have to choose between speed and smarts I’ll take smarts every single time because smart defenders are more likely to play better team defense than dumb defenders.

                And they will start running first.

              • GW says:

                Mr. IV

                Spector is a ten year pro in the EPL and the Championship and a US international. He is no John Terry or Leighton Baines but to suggest that he doesn’t understand the physical aspects of good defense is a bit much.

                You say it’s not an either or thing but then you condemn him on the basis of a few games where he has defensive lapses against some of the best attackers in the world. Like I said there must be some defective coaches who keep sending him out there all these years, usually as a defender, since the Confederations Cup.

                Cameron is much fitter and probably faster but he is also still an international newbie and I suspect he could learn a thing or two from Spector. For that matter Lichaj is almost certainly fitter, stronger and faster than Spector; but from what I’ve seen he is not as smart, not as savvy, not as quick on the uptake as Spector.

                Johann Cruyff has often said the fastest man on the field is the one who starts running first. If you look at the Barca guys I doubt most of them give Usain Bolt any trouble but a because they usually “start running first” to their teammate’s passes, they generally leave bigger, faster, stronger, more defensively sound players standing in place looking slow of mind if not of foot. That is what Cruyff meant.

                Make up speed is great but it is not 100%. Jonathan Bornstein, who was not as bad as everyone seems to think, was arguably always one of the fastest US players on the team during his tenure.

                The thing is, you speak of defense in isolation when in reality, good teams play team defense.

                My personal favorite defensive performance was when Fabio Capello’s 1994 AC Milan side beat Barca 4-0 in the European Cup final. No matter where the Barca guys were when they had the ball it seemed like there were at least three Milan players on you. And that kind of defense is not an accident nor is it a product of superior talent. It comes from smart coaching and smart, disciplined players.

                Obviously, we all want smart, powerful, fast, strong, tall defenders but in the absence of the ideal as long as the player has certain minimum levels of speed, if I have to choose between speed and smarts I’ll take smarts every single time because smart defenders are more likely to play better team defense than dumb defenders.

                And they will start running first.

      • Kingsly Alexander says:

        With every passing season, your voice becomes less and less imperative

  4. TheFrenchOne says:

    Spector: the poor man’s Cameron…

    • John says:

      I wouldn’t mind having a couple more Cameron’s to be honest

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      Cameron is the opposite. Cameron is an athlete with raw technical skills who hits a ton of square passes a college coach usually tries to wean you off of. He is tenacious as heck. But he hits wormburner crosses — good ones, but groundballs — and is so raw and athletic he often steps out of formation to get forward or to dive in, and gets burned for it.

      Spector you can tell was a pedigree kid all the way, Bradenton/USYNT etc., he is composed on the ball, hits the right passes, can hit a beautiful cross if he can get upfield. Can slide tackle with menace when he wants to. But the basic problem is he can’t run so it’s risky to let him actually venture forward to cross, and he could be back in position and still get beat to the endline he’s so slow.

      You put them together it’s Dolo. But separately they are each flawed in their own way, one is the technical slow one and the other is the raw athletic one.

  5. Terrence Osbourne says:

    I have always predicted that JS would take the opposite of the usual path of attacker to midfield to defense. Still have a few years to see if I’m full of it. To me this guy is a natural midfielder and I’ve always been stumped as to why he isn’t played there more often. I remember seeing him play there a few times I think for Charlton or the Hammers maybe it was and he looked fantastic. What I saw was a box to box guy maybe not in terms of speed but he has the requisite engine and endurance and more importantly he comes alive as a player IMHO when deployed there. Believe it or not I think the guy is meant to be an attacking playmaker.
    But where does that leave him a few months before Brazil? Nowhere, of course. His only chance is to get a spot back with Birmingham City in defense, get some solid games under his belt, prove his fitness and hope JK remembers his versatility. If you have both Cameron and JS on the field, that gives you a lot of options when the inevitable group stage curveball rolls your way as a manager…