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USMNT Daily Update: After more than a year away, it’s time to bring back Lichaj

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If you are wondering who the guy is defending against Liverpool star Steven Gerrard is, it is American fullback Eric Lichaj. He just happens to be the only American defender playing with any regularity in the English Premier League (Geoff Cameron has been more midfielder than defender so far for Stoke), and has been doing so since the early part of 2012.

If you're thinking "who doesn't know that's Eric Lichaj", you could argue that it seems like Jurgen Klinsmann has no idea who he is. How else do you explain the fact that Lichaj has yet to wear the U.S. national team uniform since Klinsmann became head coach almost 14 months ago?

No, I don't honestly think Klinsmann has NO idea who Lichaj is, but it does make you wonder just how a player like Lichaj has been overlooked repeatedly. Yes, there are plenty of other players who could make up a list regular Klinsmann snubs (Sacha Kljestan anybody?) but for my money no player has been more curious a snub than Lichaj.

He is young, talented, versatile, played multiple positions where the U.S. national team lacks real depth, and he happens to play in one of the best leagues in the world.

So why hasn't Lichaj been called up yet?

Last February, when the USA played Italy, Lichaj was not yet a true regular for Aston Villa, but when it came time to select players for the U.S. team's friendlies and World Cup qualifiers in May and June Lichaj had enjoyed a lengthy run of matches for Villa. He played well during that run, and goalkeeper Brad Guzan stated pretty clearly that he felt Lichaj had played well enough to earn a call-up.

Klinsmann saw differently and passed Lichaj over.

Fast forward to the new Premier League season and Lichaj came into the new campaign expected to battle for playing time under new manager Paul Lambert. When Klnsmann snubbed Lichaj for the August friendly against Mexico, and then the September qualifiers against Jamaica, the argument could have been made that Klinsmann was letting Lichaj stay in England and fight for his starting role under Lambert.

Lichaj has done that and he's become a starter yet again. He has enjoyed a solid early-season run as Villa's left back (though he is a natural right back) and when you watch him play you can't help but wonder how anyone could think he isn't one of the top three or four fullbacks in the national team pool.

The only person whose opinion matters though is Klinsmann, and he will have another chance to call Lichaj in two weeks, for the national team's upcoming qualifiers against Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala. If Lichaj is healthy and still playing regularly for Aston Villa there will be no excuse for Klinsmann not to call him up.

Klinsmann has stuck to his "we have a depth chart" mantra whenever he is asked about players who haven't received national team call-ups, but when you consider Lichaj's status as a regular starter in a top league, and his ability to play both right back and left back, that excuse just doesn't hold much weight. After current starters Fabian Johnson and Steve Cherundolo, there is no fullback in the pool you can say is clearly better (or even as good) as Lichaj (unless you count Timmy Chandler, and what USMNT fan wants to do that anymore?).

With Steve Cherundolo coming to the final chapter of his career, with the lack of quality left back options behind Fabian Johnson, and with the uncertain future of Chandler's U.S. national team career, Lichaj should be receiving a phone call from Klinsmann sooner rather than later.

Assuming Klinsmann actually has his phone number.


  1. I don’t doubt that Lichaj is physically and athletically superior to a lot of people, including Parkhurst.

    I’m just not convinced he is a better soccer player than Parkhurst today.

    In his four years at Villa he could not convince, O’Neill, Houllier, and McLeish to give him more than a game or two in the league. His ten starts at the end of last season happened because a starter was injured. So either his managers were stupid or Anti American or Lichaj needed to develop.

    And most critically, if you want to talk about today Lambert came in looked over his guys and bought a right back, Lownton, and a left back, Bennett. Lambert is well regarded and considered to be fairly conservative. He did not come in and clean house instead he seems to be giving people a chance to make a case.

    When Guzan signed Brad made it clear that he did so because Lambert told him he would get a fair shot. It seems that Lambert did so for both Given and Guzan. Unfortunately for Given he had a bad Euro which probably did not help his confidence and Guzan now looks like the position will be his permanently.
    I’m convinced he knew Guzan would beat out Given and I’m convinced the Lambert expects Lichaj and Bennett to battle it out all season long. And he is giving the first shot to the veteran Lichaj just like he gave the first shot to the veteran Given.

    And I’m sure JK sees this as well and realizes the best thing for Lichaj is to stay and win this battle or if he loses it, to then get a move in January and find someplace to let him play. Lichaj needs to learn the things that Parkhurst knows, like positioning, which in spite of your dismissive attitude toward Parkhurst’s use of it, is a critical part of being a top defender.

  2. It would be more accurate to say the WCQ’s are the most intense and important competition the USMNT faces prior to the actual World Cup but they are not the highest level competition.

    Antigua and Barbuda, Guatemala and Jamaica are not high level competition but they are scrappy dangerous teams with strong home field advantages and nothing to lose. This BS that WC qualifying is easy for any team comes from people who have not been paying attention.

    So the result is the same. You still need the best possible team out there.

  3. I see the point of your argument re: friendlies, but when you consider that WCQ’s are essentially THE highest-level competition that the US engages in peioe to the actual Cup or maybe some of the big International tournaments, you want to see your best players called in. It is a bit of a juggling act making sure these guys get their best club opportunities at the right times but these qualifiers are important, and we should have our best guys there to ensure qualification.

  4. Modernizing the game? Is 3 DMs modern soccer? I don’t see a consistent style, he varies between 433 451 and 442; I don’t see sublime selection, his choices can be as befuddling or favoritist as Bradley, maybe worse; and the results in practice are no better.

    I think he’s overrated, because Germany to the semis as host and then Bayern muddle, is not an exceptional CV given the talent level of those sides.

  5. At which point I indulge my conspiracy theory that Chandler was not so happy being thrown left side (to allow Dolo to stay in the XI). Dolo is still a quality player but against speedy opponents he looks like he has lost a step. That’s the sort of thing which unfixed costs you goals and games at the World Cup (if not in the Hex itself).

    I think Dolo has participated long enough where this is the time to transition from Dolo to Chandler, and then you bring in Lichaj to play LB. Throw in Cameron at one CB and the best of the rest at the other, and that’s a stout defense.

    People may come back all, but he said he doesn’t want the flying, hasn’t committed to the US yet…..see what happens if we say, we will try and minimize your callups and play you on your natural right.

    I think Lichaj and Chandler need to be involved because it’s already big boy time. Play time was over when we tied in Guatemala then lost in Jamaica. Too many of the players in the selection are iffy B team types. Klinsi needs to pick the serious players now.

  6. All due respect but Lichaj is a better offensive and defensive player with more mobility.

    And in terms of your CV evals, Lichaj is being signed out of his fish year at NC by Villa, at ~20, and then being loaned out to develop and get PT. He is now in the Villa first team at 23. Parkhurst did three years at Wake, and went into MLS. He did not go abroad until 24 — older than Lichaj now — and went to a Danish team, lesser order of league.

    Or, quite simply, compare them now, one starting in the EPL the other in Denmark. Holding the younger player’s loans against him kind of neglects Parkhurst’s own Revolution apprenticeship.

    Oh, I agree Lichaj is still a little raw, I watched him and Villa get schooled by Man U last year, about everyone on the defense including him naps while Welbeck steals in for a tap in back post. But from what little I’ve seen of him with the US, he looked a notch below Chandler and roughly on the level of Dolo and Boca. Versus the slow Parkhurst, dependent on positioning, it’s no real comparison to me. A team versus B or C.

  7. About time a journalist criticized player selection in the U.S.. It happens all the time in other countries. In the U.S. journalists normally act like spokesman for whoever is the coach. Ives is 100% correct in his assessment.

  8. Jonathan Bornstein got the call because there was nobody else. It’s not like Bob didn’t look for other options. Moreover, Ricardo Clark had his good run of games, and the USA’s best result last cycle involved Rico. That said, Bob made a curious decision including him against Ghana, especially after Maurice Edu’s game against Algeria.

  9. Shane.. You’re so quick to disprove JK’s methods which have only been in place for how long? Modernizing the game in this country – just to compete with our regional rivals will be a tall order and is not going to happen overnight amigo.

    If what you said has an ounce of legitimacy .. why does he still insist on playing Altidore?

  10. Im talking about a roster move, not necessarily who starts/plays. You can have Boca, Parkhurst or Goodson, Johnson and Cherundolo in the back if you have to move Cameron to the middle. You have a plethora of choices in the middle–Bradley, Jones, Edu, Williams, plus Donovan on the wing and maybe Dempsey in the mid if you play both Gomez and Altidore up top. Lichaj is the ultimate successor to Cherundolo it seems to me. Im not talking about him starting, but being on the team as a sub or fill-in, especially in case of injury or when you are playing a lot of games in a short time during tournaments.

  11. Didn’t he call up Josh Gatt for the last qualifiers even though he had to pull out of camp because of injury? I don’t think Klinsmann has ever had him in camp before.

  12. “Cameron has shown at Stoke that he can play defensive mid, so the solution is obvious: bring in Lichaj and drop Beckerman”

    Right. Fix a hole by creating another hole. Cameron just finally won the job as the Gooch replacement and now you want to move him to his Stoke position(because the US plays just like Stoke).

    Who do you want to replace Cameron with?

  13. In the last four years Lichaj has played 31 games on loan for lower division teams,Leyton Orient( League One), Lincon City (League Two), Leeds ( Championship ) , etc. and 19 games for Villa. That is 50 games

    Parkhurst has played 87 games in roughly the same time span.

    I don’t know how to compare the Danish first division to League One, Two and the Championship but I can’t imagine they are that far below those lower English leagues, if not better.

    And Parkhurst is a regular starter while Lichaj has yet to assure himself of a solid starting job. That may be enough to prefer Parkhurst over Lichaj at least for now.

    People here seem to be ignoring the fact that Lichaj’s biggest flaw is his inexperience and rawness. The best way to fix that is to play as much as possible so leaving him to win a job where he can do precisely that for a long time makes the most sense to me.

  14. Love Lichaj, but the day Klinsman announced the last USMNT squad (September 2nd) it was only the third gameweek of the Premier League season. On that very day Lichaj had just played his 2nd game for Villa after not featuring in GW1. So, as Klinsman was forming his thinking for the upcoming qualifiers, he had only one game to judge Lichaj on (a 3-1 loss to Everton in which he had an assist but his side finished with just 10 men).

    Give it time. He’ll be back.

  15. Lichaj wasn’t overlooked! And he wasn’t starting for Villa until September. He was battling for first choice starter at his club under a new coach. The worst thing we could do for him was to disrupt that effort impress the new coach. For three weeks it had seemed that Lichaj had won the battle and the risks of calling him diminished. We will see. I bet he probably gets called up for next WC qualifiers, and he definately gets called for the November friendlies in Europe.

  16. I saw all the people you mentioned play or perform their athletic feats, either in person or on TV.

    That is not what we are talking about here.

    None of the USMNT players are average athletes or average soccer players. They are where they are because they are better at what they do than most Americans.

    But their competition will be their equal or better when it comes to the physical and athletic part.

    What the US needs to work on at this point is mostly between the ears.

    After the 2010 World Cup loss to Ghana, Donovan, always known for his candid answers,
    said he felt that the US could have won but Ghana were just a little bit smarter, a little bit more savvy and that made all the difference in a very close game.

    For example, as far as the people on your list, I saw Pele play live and he was a very hard man, very tough and ruthless and not above being dirty to make a point. In one game against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Rodney Marsh had just slid out of bounds. Pele made sure none of the officals were looking and proceeded to kick and trample Marsh and then stand on his chest. This is not a just game to a lot of these guys. For many of them it is a way out of unimaginable circumstances.

    So yes, that so called “mentality” matters.
    After all, I saw the German teams JK played for and in his own way he and his German teamates were just as ruthless as Pele.

  17. I’m just as frustrated with JK (more so with his tactical adjustments or lack of & playing guys out of position). But who would you rather have next to Michael Bradley, besides Jermaine Jones or Danny Williams? Kyle Beckerman? I hope not. You sound like that Zimmerman kid falling into that “who’s really American” trap hole. The whole youth development thing is really complicated here in the U.S. and cannot be addressed or even identified, as in other parts of the world, for too many reasons to begin with. How can you judge JK on this conundrum, 1+ yrs into it? It’s gonna take a lot more than any single coaching staff, and a hell of lot of time to see progress. KJ will be in his capacity for a short time, but I already see higher expectations of the NT and more attention toward U.S. soccer than ever before. And that’s a good thing, right?

  18. Shane, what players are you referring to in regards to vasquez? I know he was born in mexico, but which players on the NT are mexican-born? I can think of a few that came up in the much more lucrative mexican league and play there now, but none that were born there.

  19. I got ya. Just referring to the fact that it’s nice to have the speed and athletic ability to complement all the skill. But again, you can only do so much with what you got to work with. Now I feel all that much dumber after reading your enlightening statement and will be reminded every time I watch Maradono, Messi, MJ, Usain Bolt, Bo Jackson, Henry, Hugo Sanchez, Carl Lewis, Eric Heiden, Pele, Lebron, Bob Gibson, Deion Sanders, Jackie Robinson, Kun Aguero, Darrell Green, et al highlight reels….just average athletes who made do with what they had. GW, surely you can’t be serious, that’s like saying humans have larger, more convoluted brains and therefore are more intelligent than other species. Duh! just pulling your leg brah

  20. Lichay’s case is curious to me too, not the only curious case. Oddest part is his versatility; he could backup both back positions IF he can work out and prove he’s able to BUT he hasn’t even been asked to try…on top of the other reasons. What if he and Chandler both get called up and Chandler actually accepts?

  21. Remember people were saying the same thing about Gomez not getting called up. Now he is a fixture, I think the call will happen for Lichaj.

  22. hopefully we will come to understand that players like parkhurst, torres, beckerman, and shea (big fan!) have been placeholders for players like lichaj, bradley, someone (holden?), and donovan once things get real

  23. He’s played both…if you read what I wrote, I’m not saying I would permanently put lichaj at left back to move Johnson up to be on the wing…it is all about versatility. I’m not sold at all on Castillo…not in the least.

    I would do it situationally be ause lichaj is not as much of a drop at LB versus Johnson being an upgrade on the wing if Dempsey is playing as an attacking midfield role, or Donovan is out hurt, etc…

  24. +10000000000! And Rusty, Vasquez is as American as Klinsmann. Lives here, has benefited from life in the US but prefers players from his country of birth. Like Klinsmann, he also has never proven he can successfully coach a team. Klinsmann has made some of the stupidest mistakes I can imagine. He is inconsistent and contradicts himself. And as jimmorrison points out he is not good for our youth development, just a blind, “we have to do things like Europe” despite the reality that the athletic resources in this country are organized differeintly than in Europe. And you know what, the European immigrants who made this country over the last too centuries chose to organize some things differently from Europe for good reason. Anyone seen the documentary “Soccer Slaves”

  25. Whatever his depth chart is, it’s crocked. I don’t think we are either starting or calling up our best players. Lichaj in particular should at least be in the 18 if not starting. Behind Spector? Parkhurst?

  26. Sure but the left back hole on that 2002 team was not a serious as it has been lately, even though Jeff Agoos does not have a lot of admirers.

    And the problem with this team is the defense. Because the back four is so shaky, it changes the approach for the rest of the team. There is more emphasis on defensive midfielders to shield the back four and even the attackers like Donovan, Dempsey and Gomez, must pay more attention to their defensive responsibilites.

    That obviously affects our offensive capability.

    Until they find an adequate left back replacement for Johnson I see no reason to move him. He can contribute to the attack quite well from the left back spot.


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