USMNT Roundtable: Do We Have A Fullback Problem?
OTF’s contributors gather round the USMNT roundtable to consider the fullbacks …
The United States Men’s National Team has won 13 of its last 14 fixtures. It is going to Brazil. It is the reigning CONCACAF Gold Cup champion. The summer comprised twelve consecutive wins, bookended by 4-3 victories over Germany and Bosnia, presumptive European representatives at next year’s World Cup.
Still, no team is perfect, and Jürgen Klinsmann can barely get through a press conference these days without being questioned about his team selection, particularly the fullbacks. Are the wide defenders an issue for USMNT?
The roundtable is in session…
Yes, the United States does have a fullback problem. None of our first-choice fullbacks play exclusively in that position, and while it’s nice to have players that can fill in in a couple of different positions (read: Geoff Cameron and Michael Orozco), I would love to have a couple of fullbacks dedicated to that position.
However, for having a shortage at the position, Klinsi has done a marvelous job with what he has available. Damarcus Beasley and Brad Evans — both accustomed to playing outside midfield — have played very well in the back and offered good attacking threats going forward. I think both of these players are our best options in attack. However, I’m not sold on Evans — he and Cameron should have a good fight for the starting right back role.
Beasley, come the first game in Brazil — and of course barring injury — will be the starter at left back for the USMNT. I don’t see any way that Edgar Castillo could push Beasley out of the position; the only other player left to challenge Beasley is Fabian Johnson, who seems to be getting more and more time in the midfield.
To wrap all this up, we do have a fullback problem but Klinsi has done a good job making use of other very talented players to play in those positions. There is still competition for those places but I don’t see a whole lot changing between now and Brazil.
Coach Klinsmann has already selected his starting fullbacks for the 2014 World Cup. DaMarcus Beasley will start on the left flank and Brad Evans will start on the right.
Beasley, who plays left back for Puebla in Mexico, provides some good movement forward, but can be a little shaky with his defensive duties. On the opposite side, Brad Evans provides better defensive cover and is decent going forward. I don’t see anyone taking these positions unless there is an injury or some awful run of form from these two players. However, it’s still their position to lose and they will be expected to perform in these last two qualification matches. So, who could take their place?
Some argue Geoff Cameron should challenge for the right back position, but Klinsmann considers him to be his defensive utility player, to fill in on the right and in the center. Michael Parkhurst was serviceable in the Gold Cup, but was not named to this camp — I’m sure we won’t seem him called back to the USMNT unless it’s a friendly. Timmy Chandler made his way into the starting lineup against Honduras at the beginning of the Hex, but has not appeared since.
Beasley and Evans have earned their spot by showing commitment and desire to be the starting backs. Have we already forgotten the goal Evans scored to win the match in Jamaica?
The USMNT team has a fullback problem, in much the same way as the rest of the soccer world.
From youth to international teams, it is a traditional point of weakness. That is where players don’t want to play and only go when they realize it is where they will get the most minutes. The result is you get two types of players: outside midfielders who can distribute, get into the attack, but don’t defend too well; alternatively, center backs who don’t hold the middle well enough. They can work within a defense really well, but don’t do much in terms of assisting the attack (other than maybe a giant noggin on set pieces).
Therefore, the solution is to look for those who are doing the job for their club side all the time and can do a bit of both. Based on the premise I outlined, the USMNT does have a fullback problem. I think players like DMB (or Brad Evans at right back) may work against other CONCACAF teams, but will be a liability in Brazil in the starting 11.
To me, that would put Geoff Cameron and Timmy Chandler into those starting positions based on current form, but I think Chandler must have killed one of Jürgen’s dogs to be left off the team again.
While these qualifiers are important to win, it’s also important to continue to build depth. Therefore, if you are going to try outside midfielders at fullback, which I like when you are chasing the game late, I would think Brad Davis may be another one who should get a look along with Evans and Beasley.