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USMNT Daily Update: A look at centerback options

Omar Gonzalez


With Carlos Bocanegra out of the picture for now, and Oguchi Onyewu still in “Can’t Get Minutes for His Club Team” asylum, the centerback pool for the U.S. Men’s National Team has an inexperience feel to it heading into the March World Cup qualifiers.

Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez started in the team’s last qualifier, but with the fullback position down to the bare bones, there is a very good chance Cameron will spend these next qualifiers as a fullback, which isn’t a stretch considering that’s where he plays for Stoke City.

If Cameron does play fullback, it leaves the centerback position in a state of flux. Omar Gonzalez seems like a safe bet to start even though his blunder on Honduras’ game-winning goal is still fresh in the mind.

So if Gonzalez is a starter, and if you believe the likely notion that Cameron will probably be deployed at fullback, who do you partner Gonzalez with? Do you go with the experienced Clarence Goodson, the inexperienced Matt Besler or the out-of-position Maurice Edu?

Here is a closer look at all three options:


He is playing regularly again for Brondby, and has the national team experience edge over Matt Besler, but an argument can be made that he is too similar to Gonzalez. Both are tall centerbacks who aren’t considered very fast, and in Goodson’s case he isn’t considered the strongest defender either. Against Costa Rica you figure Gonzalez matches up vs. the physical Alvaro Saborio, which would leave the shifty and quick Bryan Ruiz to match up against Goodson. That wouldn’t be a good match-up for the U.S.


The reigning MLS Defender of the Year reads the game well, and is a very good passer out of the back. He’s capable of giving the U.S. that distributor in the back the team needs, particularly with Brad Guzan in goal (distribution isn’t Guzan’s strong suit). Besler also forms a natural partnership with Gonzalez as the left-footed option. What Besler lacks is national team experience, and with Gonzalez not having very much either, it seems like a risky play to start both in what Klinsmann is calling a “must-win game”.


His move to Bursaspor has paid major dividends in helping him get in good form and work his way back into the national team mix. So why is a defensive midfielder listed here, among centerback candidates? Simple really. he’s one of the best centerback options in the pool, at least right now, and he could be a perfect complement to Gonzalez. He has the speed to cope with a player like Ruiz (not that any American defender can handle Ruiz one-on-one) and he has the experience to provide some leadership in the back.


Cameron is the best centerback option in the pool, but he’s also the best fullback option left, so given the lack of depth at fullback it seems a safer bet that he lines up on the outside for the upcoming matches. That is unless you believe one-cap fullbacks Justin Morrow and Tony Beltran are ready to start in a must-win qualifier.


Which centerback pairing would you like to see Klinsmann use on Friday? Cast your vote here (and keep in mind, by not selecting Cameron it is because you believe he is more needed at fullback):

  • Gonzalez-Besler
  • Gonzalez-Edu
  • Gonzalez-Goodson
  • Cameron-Gonzalez
  • Cameron-Edu
  • Cameron-Besler
  • Besler-Edu
  • Edu-Cameron


Which pairing did you vote for? Do you think the U.S. has the defenders to shut down Costa Rica?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Its beyond me that we are tripping over Gonzo and Besler or why Boca is not in camp when we have a better opinion no one is even mentioning. It is no surprise players in camp are complaining about the level and experience of certain players in certain positions are seriously lacking. One name that hasn’t been mentioned at all is Oguchi Onyewu….here is my 2 cents
    1. His Market value – 3,500,000 euros.
    2. 66 USMNT caps (….not 2, not 4) and still training/playing at the highest level
    3. Plays/Trains/Subs on a team that is currently 6th in La Liga (not a Player/sub for a 19th place 2nd division La liga team, Captain or not).
    4. Plays and trains with the team with plans, preparation and schemes to stop the attacks of Messi, Villa, inesta, Ronaldo, Benzema, Falcao, Negredo, Soldado etc…….not training to stop a Magee, Keane, Henry, Earnshaw, Cooper, Wondo, Bruin or Johnson
    5. If you can even be on the bench for Malaga, battling for play time and making the first team against Weligton (team captain), Demichelis (37 Nat team apps – Argentina), Lugano a (72 Nat team apps – Uruguay), on a 6th place La Liga team….you should AT LEAST make the bench on the USMNT.
    No CB currently in our pool is receiving his LEVEL of training…..None. Technical and tactical level of training IMO is more comparable between EPL and La liga than MLS and EPL. It doesn’t matter the combination above, the level of training (which according to the article we lacks already) is notably large, which we might be able to wing it against Costa Rica but against Mexico in the Azteca…….. we are in big trouble……Just my 2 cents

  2. All this talk about the backs, when it’s the midfield that has struggled most. The USMNT has looked excellent when Edu has played back. If I’m not mistaken I think we may even be undefeated. With Cameron/Gonzo/Edu as 3/4 of the puzzle, I feel relatively confident. Midfield play on the other hand…not so much

  3. Lots of good viewpoints on the Defense. I am more encouraged by the midfield options Klinnsman has for this game. Should our midfield hold the ball more, make a 2-3 yard run to get open and support, and ‘shift’ towards the direction of the ball, the U.S. midfield CAN take pressure off to the defense and make the defense look good. This will be paramount against Costa Rica. I know it’s a cliche, but the game can be decided in midfield. I like a 4-3-3 option with Johnson, Altidore, and Gomez playing the forward positions. I want to see Beasley playing on the left wing, but that choice depends on the midfield and defense choices. A 4-3-3 midfield may best be served with an upside down triangle: Bradley and Jones on the left and right points of the triangle and possibly Klejstan or Corona in the middle, but not as a #6 type DM. Beasley should be put in at LB and overlap with Jones and Johnson. Before this team can sort out the Midfield the Defense needs to be setup. I am forecasting this game to the Midfield. The midfield will need to compliment the Defense and Forwards.

    • That upside down triangle of Bradley, Jones, and Corona could be too narrow and not provide enough width. I am scratching my head at all possible position choices and formation choices. I need a drink (or two).

  4. Time for the youngsters to shine!!!

    S. Johnson
    Beltran Gonzo Besler Morrow
    Corona Cameron Bradley Shea
    Altidore Boyd

    You know that’s really not so bad, the right side is completely out of its depth and Shea can’t go 90, but other than that…

  5. I think a lot is going to depend on how they all train. I think the decision is actually up in the air until the night before the match. If Goodson is playing well, I would start him for his experience along with Gonzo. If not than go with Edu instead. Also i don’t think Justin Morrow is all that bad. He scored a beautiful goal last week in fact. look it up.

    Cameron Gonzo Goodson/Edu Morrow.

    of course if you could also go for the max height back line,

    Cameron Gonzo Goodson Shea

    but i don’t think that’s a good tactic against teams like Costa Rica and Mexico. So you will probably see this come game day.

  6. After reading JK’s quotes, I’m thinking he’s at least toying with the idea of playing Edu at RB, and leaving Cam/Gonzo in the middle. He said Edu can play “…center back, outside, or any midfield position.” “Outside” would seem to refer to outside back.

    The RB spot is presumed to be Cherundolo’s, once he’s healthy. Why switch Cameron out there for 2 matches, then bring him back to CB, when building a solid CB pair is probably our highest priority? Not to mention that a screw-up by a RB is much easier to survive than a screw-up by a CB.

    Morrow Cameron Gonzales Edu

  7. We need to stop with the sky is falling stuff! The US survived with Bornstein at LB for a long time, we even moved Boca out there a few times. A centerback tandem of Gonzalez and Belser/Cameron is not far from the best we can throw out there even healthy at this time. The fullback situation is a little unnerving, but again it is not as bad as the experiments with Beasley and Torres in those spots. At least we have players who compete regularly at a professional level in these positions.

    Our attacking options are actually really good for this game. The only thing that could significantly improve our attack would be an in shape and in form Donovan or Holden.

  8. Asking your captain to make a motivational speech after you just made him distraught is amazingly tone deaf though. That and the game day decision making are pretty problematic. If you’re going to make a move like this, you should discuss it with your captain ahead of time and train for it.

    • Amen. I happen to think the Boca->Gonzo transition was inevitable and the start of the Hex was as good a time to do it as any. But it’s unbelievable that Klinsmann didn’t work to make it as smooth as possible — in fact, it sounds like he handled it as poorly as possible. . . .

  9. Never isolate your best defender out wide. Everything funnels to the goal area. Outside backs will get beat from time to time. I’d rather have Cameron defending the most threatening area. My vote-Cameron and Omar at CB.

  10. I would like to see Besler-Gonzalez, but it would have been awesome if he would had called in John Anthony Brooks, even just to cap-tie him.

  11. Cameron should be a fullback, Goodson has been slow-horrible, and Besler would be yet another CB who hasn’t played a high pressure game for the US. Amazingly, Edu is our best combination of experience and form. He played the position well against Mexico, and could do well covering for Gonzalez.

    Besler is certainly a defender for the future, but we need to minimize risk for this encounter.

  12. Back Line: I think Gonzo and Edu will be fine, but I won’t be upset if either Edu or Cameron end up with Gonzo in the middle. Beltran doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence on the outside, but as a Quakes fan, I see no reason to distrust Morrow at LB… so long as you understand he is attack-minded and therefore don’t expect him to stay back as often (isn’t that what we wanted FJ to do anyway?).

    Straus Article: Good piece, and based on what I read, I question the players as much as JK. JK’s two main faults: hiring his repeatedly maligned buddy as a tactician, and not noticing, after nearly two years, that our players lack both the skill and mentality for his system. Yet another example of great players making poor coaches, because their natural abilities and outlook filled in the blanks for them. you can’t do that, even with above average personnel.

    As for the players… wow. I can’t believe that there are such entitled brats on that team. It may have been only one or two players, but jeebus, IMO that kind of crap doesn’t belong on the team.

  13. Judging from what JK said about letting his young players get experience, the natural CB pairing would be Besler-Gonzalez, as we all witnessed that Cameron-Gonzalez was a total disaster.

    Besler’s brain paired with Gonzalez’s braun may have only seen one appearance so far, but it was a clean sheet.

    I believe that this is what we see Friday. Cameron will start at fullback, and its a toss up between Morrow and DMB for the other fullback.

  14. First thought is that this is just what you hear when a team isn’t playing well. They never quite made the transition from the 2009-2010 team to whatever was supposed to be next — in other words, from Donovan’s team to Dempsey’s team. Obviously Klinsmann is implicated in that failure, not least because JK didn’t hire a tactician as his #2. (If you ask me, no one comes off worse in that piece than Vazquez.)

    Second thought: It highlights the importance of the senior players: Bradley, Jones, Dempsey, Howard, and — maybe the key guy — Dolo. As Lahm’s account suggested, the players have to be proactive here. They have to keep everyone together, circle the ranks, and figure out what they have to do to win.

    • Well this probably was compiled at least last month if not longer back, and Sporting News sat on it until right about now. The timing is the publisher, not the players.

      You can always question whether it’s sour grapes from bench players, but 11 current players means that there are players who are at least subs and perhaps starters.

      And with 23 lineups in 23 games “starter” covers a whole lot of players.

  15. Personally, I’d go with the one you didn’t list: Edu and Goodson.

    Goodson over Gonzalez due to experience and Gonzo blundering twice in the Honduras game, both leading directly to goals. Edu’s quickness and strength compensate for Goodson’s lack, and as a midfielder, he’s a decent passer out of the back, like Besler. Plus, it’s the most experienced pairing.

    Now, the only rub would be if you want to play Edu as the #6, to shield was likely will be a shaky, and at least, unfamiliar 5 in the back (including Guzan). If so, then Edu is out of the mix at CB and I’d go with Goodson and Gonzalez, reluctantly. Cameron on the right, Beasley on the left.

    And I’d note, a 3-5-2 with Cameron and Beasley the wingbacks wouldn’t be out of the question, though it seems pretty defensive for a home match (maybe in Mexico, however). Here’s what I’d do:

    Costa Rica:

    Offensive subs: EJ, Zusi, Boyd
    Defensive Subs: Beckerman, Besler, Morrow/Beltran (injury only)

    Mexico: (Park the bus): 3-5-2

    • I like your line up but Goodson over Omar come on man !! the guy is too slow .. against Costarica , who i he going to cover Sabario ( too physical) Ruiz( too quick) so no, the experience does not matter in this case

    • +1 my question as well.


      this backline gives me a lot of confidence.

      vs. Guatemala (i understand not Mexico and CRC!) Parkhurst played a quality game at LB. He was simple, just defended and played the ball out. I didn’t see him try to flank the attack or do anything daring but held his position well. Besler sounds like someone who could handle that role. I admit I haven’t seen much of Morrow’s game but neither him nor DMB at LB seem like confident picks…

    • nothing there surprised me- only the densest of Klinsi apologists would be surprised…

      1) coach being accessible to media and fans-clearly a Klinsi strength, helps the visibility of USMNT, but no help whatsoever on the field
      2) talks about beautiful game and turning US into a global power, but clearly mismanaging the talent available today (you can both-manage the team talent as it is now to get the best out fo it, and develop youth in the pipeline-THEN switch)….He fields even more defensive and disjointed lineups than necessary- I almost jumped out of my chair about the 4-4-2 Slovenia comments, considering that I’ve yammering about that forever as well 93 goals, nice pace to the attack, great game)- what is the point of playing central frowards wide and a bunch of defensive mids together?
      3) the German-American thing I beleive is a function of the team not playing well rather than the cause… Chandler/Johnson are clear, by far upgrades over Bonrstein/Pearce/Castillo and gulp, Beasley, as fullbacks-
      4) the whole, “that’s the player’s job” by Klinsi is b.s. pure and simple. A leader’s job is to manage talent to get the most out- and it requires as little or as much effort and communication as needed to get the message across and reach the ultimate goal-it’s up to the leader to be clear, consistent in expectations, not be take platitudes from motivational posters and spit them out…. a leader’s options are two-fold, replace player’s with those who can actually undestand what you’re saying and who’ll fit the system, or adjust the system and be more poractive about maknig sure they understand you-clearly the talkent is what it is today and we can wait multiple WC cycles of trying to 1)talk about attractive soccer 2)playing defensive players 3) in uncomfortable roles for them and teammats with no strategy until the pipeline bears fruit-personally I’d rather have revolutionary change in the youth ranks and evolutionary at the high level and NOT sacrifice WC berths in the meantime

  16. People flamed me on here bigtime for suggesting some of the things in this article. The team is in trouble folks, and need to get it sorted out soon.

  17. Thinking about the center backs, Big O is gonna be there regardless so the only true guy that I think that can accommodate him is Edu, think about it we have a big strong guy pair with a very click athletic one, if they can really mesh together we will be good when can cover the other, high ball big O got it .. quick run ( chicharito for instance) or long pass Edu is quick enough to get it or tackle the threat, I have watched alot of Edu’s videos, and honestly his only issue is when he tries to do too much , like dribble etc.. he is not a good dribble, when he is decisive he passes well and a much better player .

  18. I really wish Sean Franklin was brought in to pair with Omar. At least they have a solid chemistry together. I will turn the TV off if Goodson starts. When has he ever put in a solid defensive performance for us?

    • As well as he has played on back to back MLS Cup winners it is surprising he hasn’t been given a chance under the new regime. He’s got some pace and has worked well with Gonzalez. I won’t turn of the game if Goodson starts, but I’ll join a lot of people lighting up the message boards if it turns into a disaster, because even with the injuries he’s not a solid option.

  19. ???–Gonzalez—Edu—Cameron

    To me there is no question on that, who are our LB will be is what the biggest question should be going into our qualifiers. Edu was fantastic at CB for us before and he has the leadership needed back there. Without Timmy Howard behind them every inch of leadership we can get in the back is SORELY NECESSARY

    • My instincts tell me to concur with your recommended troika, although I could live with a Besler-Edu pairing at CB as well. The key for me is to have Maurice lead the defensive line, if for no other reason than the fact that he is the only defensive player on this roster with a demonstrated ability in international play to distribute the ball effectively and transition play from defense to attack. After watching both Omar and Geoff seemingly panic at the prospect of having the ball at their feet in the defensive third in the Honduras game, I would rather have Maurice pair with Omar as a settling influence while still having Geoff’s considerable defensive skill set available at RB.

      As for LB, the last-minute addition of Brad Davis to the roster makes it easier to envision DMB taking on the assignment. His successful, albeit limited, club deputization at the position combined with his vast experience representing the USMNT in international competition suggests that he pose the least risk of defensive liability of the options available. Plus he still has the jets (as well as closing skills and technique on the ball) both to provide needed support in neutralizing Costa Rica’s forwards while being a legitimate offensive threat on the wing, overlapping with Davis and joining the attack. Should DaMarcus show signs of fatigue (let’s hope not), JK would still have the option of substituting Brek Shea for Davis while keeping DMB parked on the back line, or even (if absolutely necessary) swapping Brek for DaMarcus at LB.

      Not ideal options to have, granted, but hardly fatal ones either under the circumstances.

  20. I would think at home against Costa Rica the defense will be fine. However, if Klinnsmann puts in alot of players in midfield and forward that will turn the ball over the defense could have a problem. Against Mexico it will be a different story. The defense will really need to be strong to give us a chance.

  21. I have sweaty palms 4 days before kickoff.

    Omar/Goodson and a lot of luck. Goodson has the experience needed to organize the INEXPERIENCED back 5.

  22. Soccer tactics question: does each of the CBs generally “match up” with one of the forwards, as suggested in the paragraph about Goodson?

    • Not a literal man-to-man situation but more often than not certain CBs are going to look to deal with certain forwards.

    • I think Cameron can instinctively, aggressively defend, but he sometimes goes to sleep mentally. But in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king. I would not weaken the middle to fill the right. I would put the best two in the middle and cope on the flanks. Personally I’d use him and Edu because I don’t like Gonzo’s mobility against Ruiz and Saborio. Ditto Goodson. I think matching up is charitable for Goodson based on Russia.

      IMO, if you’re going to start Goodson you might as well have called in Boca because they are probably similarly mobile and effective at this stage, and Boca would at least know what he’s doing. But that’s more saying how little I think of Goodson than really saying call up Boca. I’m big on back mobility and neither has it. Put some people back there with defensive instincts who can stop people. Let the midfielders worry about possession…..truth is Cameron and Edu would be fine passing the ball from the back anyway…..both being middie converts. But I’m a believer you don’t slight the prime directive of defense for offense.

  23. I wish Klinsi would go to a 3-5-2, that way we could start three strong CBs (some combo of GCam, OG, Besler or Edu,),along with our twin DM studs and s pair of true wing MFs like DMB, Zusi or shea

  24. Whenever you use players from different leagues and different continents, who have different seasons, you are going to have differences in fitness and match sharpness.

    This was abundantly clear when you looked at the match fitness and sharpness of several of the MLS players in the Honduras game. It is even clear watching the MLS games how many of the teams are not quite there yet with many awful passes, and general “not quite on the same page” play.

    But most of the MLS players will have at least 3-4 or more games under their belt. I think this will go along way on the general cohesiveness of the team. Something that was missing at Honduras.

  25. I recall a few years ago — maybe even under Bradley — when Edu subbed into a game as a CB. It must’ve been a friendly, but I recall his not looking too good, misjudging balls going over his head.

    • But he played 90 against Mexico in Azteca and looked good next to Cameron. I think maybe that pairing would be best in the future.

      • +1 Maybe not this game because lack of fullback options, but that has got to be the pairing going forward once Chandler and Johnson are back.

    • agreed. he doesn’t play CB for his club as far as i know. soccer isnt a plug-in and play game.

      i won’t be surprised if we see a 3-5-2

    • Not sure what your point is? Are you saying based on your vague recollection of a game a few years ago, where he did not look good, he should not play CB? Because Edu started at CB in Azteca in the USMNT’s 1-0 win last August and was solid. He was paired with Cameron.

      • You forget the Azteca game had some very shaky moments, bailed out only by the brilliance of Howard

      • Having shaky moments at Azteca is a given no matter who our defenders are. Considering our record their, pulling off the first win ever at Azteca or even a draw takes luck and outstanding play from several players in key positions.

      • That’s what I’m saying, the result was from outstanding GK play, and a brilliant sequence of Shea-Boyd-fiscal. Edu was solid, but far from “outstanding”. Id prefer a natural CB, and as scary as it sounds, I like Besler-Gonzo. At least they’ve played together on the international level

      • I agree about the Besler-Gonzo pairing.

        The backline I’d like to see vs Costa Rica:

        Cam Belser Gonzo ?LB

        With Edu as the CDM.

      • clearly you haven’t seen beslers form to start the MLS campaign!!! Besler will not get the nod and edu has way more experience in these moments than besler and gonzo. I’d personally like to see the goodson-edu pairing bc goodson is just as dominant in the air as gonzo but passes better out of the back and has about the same speed! People are forgetting edu played the whole olympic tourney at center back in 08, so he has experience there!

      • I thought he played really well at CB in the Olympics, I know that was a few year back but he has been getting occasional minutes there since 08.

      • And RK you’re right, it was against Czech Republic, badly misplayed a ball over his head. Believe Herc scored his 1st that game.

      • people are also forgetting that edu has experience playing in the back for the NATS in the 08 olympics! Yeah it was over 4 yrs ago but he did well there the whole tourney so its not like he doesn’t have experience there!

  26. i would really want to see Cameron – Goodson as they provide the most experience but we’re left high and dry at RB. Beltran and Morrow have too little experience.

  27. I repeat from yesterday: I will bet anyone 25 cents that Geoff Cameron will be starting Friday as a fullback, most likely right back. However, he played left back last Saturday for Stoke, so that option would be open for Klinsmann. We desperately need a proven stud on either right or left back and Cameron is the man–Period.

    I am still stunned that Klinsmann did not call in Bocanegra, who I thought would be a sure starter after the backline fiasco in Honduras. Hard to forget what happened when Klinsmann benched Boca in Kingston in September and we looked awful and lost the game 2-1. And then four days later Klinsmann under pressure put the captain back in the line-up and we shined. Boca stayed in the line-up in October for both Antigua/Barbuda and Guatemala, and we won both games. Then Klinsmann the Tinkerer benched Boca in February in Hodnuras and our backline got torched.

    But with Boca out and Goodson on the roster, I see no other choice than to start Goodson as a CB. Goodson might not be the best, but no one can ever accuse him of not playing with total heart and giving all he has, plus he has experience back there and I think we need it. I will be surprised if he does not start. All that said, I think even a Boca who has not been playing at the club level would be more effective than Goodson.

    As for the second CB position, heck, I don’t know. Edu did do a good job as left CB against Mexico last August and you know he will fight with every ounce of his being for the win, but a left-footed distributor like Besler might be the man for the job.

  28. It has to be Gonzalez and insert name. I think you have to go with experience at the position, followed by experience overall….leads us to Edu.

    From what we’ve seen from Cameron, his defensive-spacial awareness is lacking. He just hasn’t seen enough games at CB for me. Maybe Edu hasn’t either, but he seems to read the game better. I know we’ll probably have to put Cameron outside, but my worry is speed…

    If one of the others can impress on the flanks, and JK wants defensive coverage along with distribution, why not have Cameron be the sitting MF with Edu in the back. If he can keep his shape then maybe we’re not scraficing too much distribution….If CR is finding too much space on the field, maybe rotate the two.

  29. amazing situation to be in for the 2nd qualfying game, and third

    I would pair Cameron and Gonzo again instead of switching our CB tandem yet freakin again. But that choice means difficult decisions on the outside with the resources at hand, so I would start DMB on the left flank because he is such a smart and good defender that he can help cover on that side. So actually,I’d probably go with Cameron RB, Goodson or Besler-Gonzo, or wait a minute…….

    must be similar thoughts (question marks and doubts) running thru the coaches and the players minds too. Hope somehow all of this uncertainty creates a confident squad come Friday night. It’s a weird way to try and build that, but that’s what we’ve got so I hope…….

  30. I’m really not crazy about any of these options lol
    I can see any of these crashing and burning.
    Its like picking if you rather get stabbed or shot.

    • Looks like the weather will be pretty cold (low 30’s upper 20s before wind chill) and likely snow showers for the game on Friday — which is a very very good thing!!! In contrast, typical temperatures in Costa Rica right not are highs in the low 80s and lows in the upper 60s.

      • Bull!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are a fool!!!!!! They certainly can tear your arse, though. The US will smash Costa Rica you fool.

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