Top Stories

Who should start at left back against Costa Rica?

Pearce and Beasley (Reuters)


With Steve Cherundolo and Frankie Hejduk both sidelined with injuries, much has been made of the United States men's national team's right back situation against Costa Rica. But while right back does present an issue, it is the problematic left back spot which has just as many question marks surrounding it heading into tonight's qualifier.

With a chance to further distance themselves from the rest of the pack, the U.S. national team will need a strong defensive showing against a Costa Rican side that has scored 16 goals throughout qualifying in the fortress that is Saprissa Stadium. Left back candidates DaMarcus Beasley, Jonathan Bornstein and Heath Pearce are all available for tonight's match, and a case can be made for any of them to start.

Here is a closer look at the three left backs who could potentially start tonight:

DaMarcus Beasley

Some U.S. fans are concerned with his slight frame, but Beasley could just be the best option for head coach Bob Bradley tonight. Beasley showed glimpses of a solid left back when he shut-down the speedy Carlos Edwards en route to helping the U.S. post a cleansheet in their 3-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago on April 1. His defensive performance against one of the best right wingers in CONCACAF drew praises from Bradley and goalkeeper Tim Howard in the process.

Beasley also showed a willingness to jump into the attack against T&T, a trait Bradley is fond of in his fullbacks. To add to his case, Beasley has also played in more tough road qualifiers in his career than both Bornstein and Pearce combined and he is the player least likely to be phased by the hostile crowd at Saprissa, where Los Ticos are 18-1-2 in all matches since 2000.

The major concern surrounding Beasley is that he has not played since April 8, when he suffered a rib injury in the 14th minute of Rangers' league match against St. Mirren.

While his sharpness is in question, Bradley knows Beasley very well and has shown confidence in him in the past when he hasn't been playing much for his club, which makes Beasley the favorite to start vs. Costa Rica.

Jonathan Bornstein

Bornstein has had a solid year for Chivas USA and that, paired with Heath Pearce's struggles at Hansa Rostock, was reason enough for Bradley to call him back into the squad. Bornstein has helped Chivas USA post a 7-2-3 record, a record good enough to help them reach the top of the standings in the West.

Although he has not provided much of an offensive spark this season for Chivas USA, the former UCLA Bruin is still a threat going forward. Bornstein is also the only left back available to Bradley that has been getting regular minutes at the club level.

But Bornstein's last performance in the red, white and blue left for a lot to be desired. Playing against a heavily-domestic Sweden side, Bornstein showed some questionable positioning and defending in the United States' 3-2 win back in January. Although his errors did not change the outcome of the friendly played at the Home Depot Center, mistakes like those might turn out to be to too costly in Costa Rica, where the U.S. is 0-5-1 all-time in World Cup qualifying.

Heath Pearce

Having started in a team-best 11 games in 2008, Pearce's familiarity with centerbacks Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra still make him a viable candidate to start tonight against Costa Rica. Among those 11 games were two tough road qualifiers, wins at Cuba and Guatemala.

Pearce, who also led the team with 945 minutes played in last year, still remains as the most natural left back in the pool. He is not a converted forward like Bornstein, nor is he a midfielder making the transition to defender like Beasley and that could give him the edge tonight.

Like Beasley though, Pearce has not played in the past couple of months. Pearce was demoted to Hansa Rostock's reserve team on April 13 and has not seen the field for the Bundesliga 2 side since.

Before his club issues, Pearce had already been struggling for the U.S. team for much of the year and had a poor performance against El Salvador on March 28 which led to his benching against T&T. With Pearce not having played a game in two months, his form and fitness might be the reason he could watch from the sidelines once again.


Are you okay with these three options at left back? Who do you see getting the nod tonight? Which player has the best chance to lock up the position before the World Cup?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Hello loses points for failure to capitalize, punctuate, or realize that “Yossarian” is a literary allusion (to one of the greatest books of all time, no less).

  2. Bornstein – he regularly plays at LB for Chivas USA and has national team experience, and in big games/hostile environments like the Gold Cup final and in the Copa America. Doesn’t have the experience of Beasley, but he is the only one of the three to be actually in form at the moment.

  3. Of the three choices (who should start) … none of the above.

    Who will start – Beasley and here’s hoping he gets beat like a rented mule so that BB will be forced to never try it again

  4. oh, gee, let me think. OH YEAH I KNOW! The guy who plays for West Ham, is a defender, and is left footed. I think he is back form injury now. What’s his name?!?! J…o.h.n Specktor???!? (Sarcasm)

  5. The “it’s not time to experiment” argument doesn’t leave many options. I guess you could say Pearce is not an experiment, but no one wants to see him right now. All the other options are “experiments” of one sort or another. Beez doesn’t have a lot of LB experience, but then again he has a lot of experience with the team, whereas Spector and Wynne have a lot less, and Bornstein has caps but most were back in 2007. Same with people calling for Demerit in the middle and Boca out left. That’s an experiment too. I’m fine with any of those lineups. My only point is that Bob probably *has to* experiment at this point. So let him.

  6. primoone,

    Nice post and well thought out. We can do a lot worse than the back 4 you laid out.

    About being born a defender, can’t agree there. Rio Ferdenand has my back on that one.


  7. 3.5-4.5-2

    Boca LB, Gooch CB, Spector RB

    Beasley plays a withdrawn LWB, Donovan, Pablo, Bradley, and Dempsey

    Cringe(sp?) and Jozy up top.

  8. “I’d like to see Boca at left back, DeMerit and Onyewu in the center, and Spector on the right.”


    From your lips to bob’s ears Mike…

    That certainly is not the fastest quartet but is definitely the most experienced/talented line-up you can field for the US. Maybe its a bit late to try that combo on qualifyers but maybe it will get some attention down the road leading to some experimentation.

    DMB has no business being in the defense. You are born a defender…you just can’t force someone to be. Speed will not be enough. DMB will mess up and Bob’s world will come crashing down on him…My two cents.

  9. I would go with speed of Beasley and Wynne.

    Wynne plays on turf for his day job. Spector doesn’t. Wynne is fast and can recover. We don’t know about Spector and he is not playing on pristine English cut grass.

    Go with speed on the right and left.

  10. Has Spector played much at LB? That wouldn’t be a bad combo (Wynne/Spector) if John’s got the chops for LB, but I can’t imagine BB snubbing DMB entirely. I think he’ll try to find a spot for him in such a tense game b/c, as Ives says, he’s got the experience in these kinds of games. I’m not as conservative as BB and even I’m a little nervous about playing two backs who have never been in a similar environment (though Spector’s Premiership experience has to count for something).

  11. Where is Jonathan Spector’s name? He played left back at Man United more than once. If is good enough for them it is good enough for me.

    Or does the United States have some star left back at Barcelona I have not heard about?

  12. Ha, nothing’s funnier than a a COMPLETE moron. Hello, your comment about my name shows just how truly illiterate you really are. I guess you dropped out before your 10th grade class read Catch-22, huh? So classic (in multiple ways)!

  13. @ Mark again

    Run DMB at left back

    “It’s tricky to ride the pine then block a shot that’s right on line, it’s tricky, it’s tricky, tricky, tricky huh!”

    Posted by: William the Terror | June 03, 2009 at 03:44 PM

    yo son that was ill!

  14. anthony wallace…or move spector into the center with gooch and put marvell on the right and boca on the left…if he can do it in france then i’d hope he could do it in costa rica

  15. why would bradley gamble and start beasley at an unfamiliar left back position in one of the most important away wcq’s when beasley hasn’t played a competitive game in over month… that said i’ll still have my circa wc 2006 beasley jersey on. go nats!

  16. People suggesting Beasley or Bornstein– what’s your refutation of the Spector-Wynne combo? I know Wynne isn’t the most technical back, but CONCACAF is full of un-technical, speedy wings and especially with our solid center, I’m not that afraid to see him out there. Beasley looks uncomfortable and we need him to stretch the field in mid anyway.

  17. EA,

    Very nice post. I don’t agree with all of your points but you put a lot of thought and explained your thinking well.

    1 thing….Besley is not one of the fastest players in CONCACAF anymore. Ever since he blew his knee out, he just doesn’t have the same burst or flat out speed anymore. Very sad for US fans.

    If he plays tonight, keep your eye on it.

  18. “He is not a converted forward like Bornstein, nor is he a midfielder making the transition to defender like Beasley and that could give him the edge tonight.”

    I’m not sure, but I think Pearce actually did play forward in college (just like Bornstein).

  19. As I said the other day… Gooch, Bocanegra and Spector are central defender types. More size than speed.

    I expect us to line up with Beasley (though I wouldn’t be surprised if it were Bornstein) at left back, but the formation will play like a 3-5-2.

    You’ll have Pablo and Bradley sitting in the middle, to help with defensive responsibilities, and, since Donovan and Dempsey are both right footed, and thus inclined to cut in to the center, the left back will overlap the left mid frequently.

    This probably plays more to the strengths of Beasley AND Bornstein.

    I think at least as much as WE have to “contain” whoever, the 41st ranked team will have to deal with the best player in MLS (Donovan), one of the fastest players in CONCACAF (Beasley), a 90 minute Bundesliga starter (Bradley), a 90 minute EPL starter (Dempsey) and the best young American star (Altidore).

    Oh, and one of the best goalkeepers in the world.

    Let Costa Rica figure out how to deal with us.


Leave a Comment