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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. I have to say… EJ all the way.

    JK I’ve liked Borstein’s withitness. All right both Swede goals were his..

    But… HP’s mismark on ES’ goal was similar to the swede 1st goal with the exception that Bocanegra made a classic gaff tackle. And Guzan was in goal, who wasn’t worth much.

    Knowing Bradley’s coaching style (hopefully ending in 2010) JP will start with DB in front. They will try to pack it in keep a shape and counter.

  2. Beas.

    First of all, his defensive work rate even at left mid was always great. (I’m almost sure he played defense as a young Chicago Fire player and remember him really impressing me a few times.) I think he can do it. But even more important is that Beas and Donovan were a deadly combination on the left.

    it’s funny – Bradley is always attacked as conservative. You’d think he’d get credit for that successful roll of the dice last time with Beas and LD on the left.

  3. William do you realize that you said McDonalds 5 times in your post…. what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

  4. on top of that you tried to take the high road… then ended your comment with a fourth grade “bite me” real smart

  5. had to of cut you a little bit if you wasted 10 minutes writing that long assed paragraph just to tell me to do something homosexual to you

  6. @ Hello

    A McDonalds joke???? What ingenious banter. What witty repartee. Gee, I’d venture to guess that your trite little comment is probably used in one form or another by half-a-billion people a day in the many languages of every country where McDonalds does business.

    How original you are. How proud you must feel. A McDonald’s joke. Pat yourself on the back for that one.

    A McDonald’s joke. Not Burger King. Not Wendy’s. Not Taco Bell. McDonald’s. Wow, you’ve cut me to the quick.

    But, as long as we’re on the subject of dining options, why don’t you bite me?

  7. DMB is the clear choice, Pearce doesnt have anything going for him and i just dont like Bornstein… DMB is the best overall player of these choices and you cant really argue that, and him being at LB means Donovan can be productive….

  8. The Beas – he combines very well with LD on the left – he always has.

    I actually thought the William the Terror post was kind of funny. Hello is just a d-bag troll.

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

    Amen, brother.

  10. In the long run, Spector on the left, the twin towers in the middle, Dolo on the right. I think this is the magic formula, but obv we need to see more out of Spector to be sure.

    For now, let’s see how DMB does. His combination with Donovan against TNT was worth an extended experiment while Dolo is out, with DMB on the left, go with Spector on the right. I don’t trust all-speed and no game Wynn. Let’s wait on him until the next WC, not this one.

  11. Spector on left and Wynne on right.

    But of the three presented, I choose Beasley. The guy has a great workrate and speed. He is the least likely to be caught out of position, and he has the speed to make up space.

  12. Im biased, but Bornstein is our best option. He shut down Messi at the Copa America in 2007.

    He’s in form, more so than Sacha K.

  13. I’d be very hesitant to play Beasley at LB. He’s out of form and hardly been playing for Rangers, and throwing him out on the pitch in a highly hostile Costa Rica home environment I think spells trouble. This game is too important. Why not have DeMerit, Oneywu, Bocanegra, and Spector across the back line?

  14. Beasley is the best option tonight. Even when he played left mid, one of his strenghts was an ability to track back on defense and position himself properly. It will be important tonight for the US to keep a good shape in the back and not have to scramble to cover for someone being out of position.

    Has Pearce at least been playing in reserve games to maintain his fitness? Pearce is a good player, he needs to find a good club situation where he plays often so he can play up to his potential. It is really disappointing he has not solidified this position for the US. He was dreadful in the El Salvador game and below average against Mexico.

    Bornstein’s defending (positioning, marking, and tackling) not only looked questionable last January, it looked questionsable last Thursday in the Chicgo Fire game. I remember last October his Chivas teammates yelling at him in the first half of the RSL playoff game to not get caught upfield and get back to help on defense. Bornstein’s best role for the USMNT might be as a late game sub at left mid or left D when the team needs a goal. His pace in a late game role against a tired opponent combined with a pretty good shot from either foot might suit him well. He converted to defender from striker where he played in college and he has not shown much improvement in the last couple of years as a defender. He gets caught out of position too often at both the club and country level.

  15. @Mike – I’d like to see that line-up as well, but Bob favors the Boca-Gooch CB tandem, and I don’t think he’s going to shake up the backline in such a critical match anymore than necessary (bad enough we don’t have stalwarts like Frankie and ‘Dolo at our disposal).

    Pearce is out of form, and the El Salvador game did nothing to assuage concerns about his mental toughness in hostile away games. Saprissa will make El Salvador look like a walk in the park, and we all saw how well he handled that challenge.

    Bornstein has promise, but we need a seasoned vet for this match. Let Bornstein start vs. Honduras for the next match, or have him come on as a sub if we’re ahead by 2+ goals vs. the Ticos. I don’t think we can afford to throw him to the Saprissa fire just yet.

    Beasley isn’t a natural LB, which is the biggest concern. However, he does have the speed to keep pace with the Ticos’ attack, and he’s not afraid to push forward on offense. Correct me if I’m wrong, but he also has more experience in Central America away games than the other two, which can’t be overlooked.

    Beasley may not have played for ‘Gers since April 8th, but as long he’s healthy and fit, I say give him the nod. His experience in hostile environs will carry the day.

    Start Beasley.

  16. I don’t think Bornstein or Pearce are of high enough quality. I was impressed with Beasley’s debut and thought it was great to see Donnovan and Beasley combining on the same side. If Beasely doesn’t work out, I think sliding Boca over to Left Back and inserting Demerit into the middle or starting Spector on the left with Dolo maintaining the right are our best options.

  17. Let’s see, we have two guys that NEVER play for their clubs and the other guy is error prone….I pick option #4 by moving Boca to leftback and starting Demerit in his place. Situation solved.

    CR right sided MF Bolanos is the real deal so we better lock it down on that side or a spanking is coming.

  18. @ 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!”

  19. Heath was and probably still is an incredble talent, probably the only natural as you said, but my goodness, he’s been SO poor recently. Hopefully his club situation works out, but he should not be given the start tonight. I’d go with DMB. For those that say that it’s not the time to experiment, well how the hell do you know how good he’ll be against WC teams if all you do is play him at home against easy countries? Give him the nod.

  20. If Beasley is serious about being our left back in the World Cup then he needs to go to a club this offseason that will have him play left back. The only way he will get comfortable in the role is to play it every week. If he has to accept a smaller club in order to get playing time at left back, then he should do so, but he needs regular playing time there, not just the occasional U.S. national team game.


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