By IVES GALARCEP
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):
Which pairing did you vote for? Do you think the U.S. has the defenders to shut down Costa Rica?
Share your thoughts below.