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A closer look at the USMNT depth chart: Centerbacks

Matt Besler

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For the first time since 1998, the U.S. Men’s National Team could head into the World Cup with no starting experience from their centerback pair.

The duo of Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez have entrenched themselves as USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s starting defenders, having stayed as the preferred pairing since the infamous snow game victory in Colorado against Costa Rica in March 2013. However, in recent months, Gonzalez has looked shaky, giving Klinsmann plenty to think about as he puts together his squad.

Clarence Goodson, John Brooks, Oguchi Onyewu, Michael Orozco, and Tim Ream are all in the race to be the USMNT’s third and fourth defenders at this summer’s World Cup, but they face competition from players like Geoff Cameron and Maurice Edu, who could be called on to play in central defense if others don’t step up.

Despite the poor performance in Ukraine, Klinsmann is expected to give Onyewu and Brooks one last shot to prove that they belong in the squad, while Ream and Orozco will also vie for places in the team. With the likes of Ghana, Portugal, and Germany on the USMNT’s schedule, Klinsmann will try and bring as much of a mix of talent and experience to Brazil as he can.

Here is a closer look at the centerback options Klinsmann currently has to pick from:


The 2012 MLS Defender of the Year had a busy 2013, splitting time with both Sporting Kansas City and the U.S. Men’s National Team, winning titles with both teams. He’s slowly returning to form after recovering from the stressful year but Besler could be the most important player in the U.S. back line. Besler’s ability to anticipate and read the play ahead of him puts him in the right position to intercept passes, while his distribution is terrific coming out of defense. An in-form Besler could give the USMNT a chance in the daunting road of matches they have ahead.


The imposing 6-foot-5 presence has been Besler’s partner in central defense for the better part of the past year, but his struggles in recent national team matches raises some questions about whether he is a sure-fire starter. His dominating presence in the air makes him a good complement to Besler, but he will have to cut down the mistakes if he is going to keep the starting job. Klinsmann has faith in him, which assures Gonzalez a place on the World Cup team, but whether it is as a starter or reserve remains to be seen.


If Klinsmann decides to bench Gonzalez, Goodson is a good bet to step in alongside Besler. Like Gonzalez, Goodson’s 6-foot-4-inch frame gives him an advantage over the other players on the field on set pieces, on both sides of the ball. Goodson has the ability as well to be a dominant defender, but he usually isn’t the preferred player. That being said, he played in half of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifying matches and five of the six at the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2013 so he’s been one of Klinsmann’s most-used players in the past 18 months. Goodson was also in the USMNT squad at the 2010 World Cup, though he didn’t make an appearance.


It’s been an up and down year for the 21-year-old German-American defender. In his first Bundesliga season with Hertha Berlin, Brooks has dealt with injury, demotion to the bench, and the inconsistency that’s expected for a player of his age. That being said, he combines both height, distribution from the back, and positional awareness beyond his years that when put together, make an intriguing option for the World Cup. He’s been back in the Hertha starting lineup for the last two weeks, hopefully finishing the season on a high note. He’s an option for Klinsmann for sure, but this World Cup might just have come too soon for him.


Since Klinsmann took the USMNT job, Orozco has usually earned a call-up when fit at some point of the year, even if not playing. A more technical central defender than the plethora of tall options, Orozco is one of the pool’s best options to back up Besler, though he doesn’t have Besler’s speed. A regular starter for Mexican side Puebla, Orozco saw his season cut short by a hamstring injury. He should be a part of the pre-World Cup training camp unless he can’t recover from his recent injury.


Ream has become a crucial member of Bolton Wanderers this year, making 41 appearances at centerback, left back, and even right back. While he’s had plenty of playing time at the club level, he hasn’t seen any action for the USMNT since 2011. He was called into the USMNT squad to face Bosnia and Herzegovina last August and Ukraine last March but didn’t play in either match. His impressive form for Bolton makes him an intriguing option, especially given the fact it can be argued he is the most technical centerback in the pool.


The only player in the pool with World Cup experience still in contention, Onyweu has a huge hill to climb to put himself into the USMNT squad. After three years in club purgatory following his recovery from a torn patellar tendon in his left knee, Onyewu has finally caught on with Sheffield Wednesday and is getting regular playing time. However, he’s played just three times for the USMNT since June 2012 and he hasn’t looked sharp in any of those matches. Onyewu’s chances to make the World Cup are slim unless he can prove to Klinsmann that he’s recovered the speed and strength of his younger days.


What do you think of the centerback pool? Which four would you bring to the World Cup? Which of these options would you leave out of the upcoming pre-World Cup training camp? Think Cameron and/or Edu would be better options?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I’m just not comfortable moving Cameron, or Edu for that matter, into the middle when they haven’t played there in some time. If we go with Beasley and Cameron as the outside backs, we can play FJ on the left wing and Landon on the right, which I think is our best attacking lineup. If FJ winds up playing outside back – on whichever side – then we do have Bedoya and Zusi to man one of the wings.

    I’m rooting (probably naively) for Gonzo to sort himself out. I’m also rooting for Gooch (probably naively) to have worked off enough rust where he can be a positive contributor. If his body can handle it, I think right now he’s better than Goodson, Ream, Orozco or JAB. If he is too slow and stiff, then he’s not on the plane. I expect we’ll find out during camp.

    I haven’t worked through all the combinations, but it feels to me like Parkhurst and Evans are competing for one spot, and Ream and Orozco are competing for another. I wouldn’t expect more than two of these 4 on the roster.

  2. A fairly strong case could be made that Klinsmann during the past two and one-half years has done a poor job of preparing CB options for the World Cup. In any case, looking beyond Gonzo, Besler, and Goodson, I don’t see Brooks as an answer. He has had a miserable season that cannot be erased by a handful of appearances at the end of the season. Brooks in the lineup in Brazil would be an open invitation for disaster. His chance will come in the WC 2018 cycle.

    Cameron is now a solid Premier League right back and that is the position he should be playing in Brazil. I don’t trust him trying to make the transition to CB for the WC. I saw him fill in for Stoke at CB, maybe in November or December, and he did not look convincing. Best would be to have CBs for Brazil who play the position for the clubs. Maybe in an emergency Klinsmann could play Cameron at CB, or veteran international players like Mo Edu or Jermaine Jones, who could make up at least part of their lack of CB experience with their grit and fight and international experience.

    Orozco and Ream seem right now to be strong candidates. But someone up above mentioned Schuler, and seems legitimate to me. If Klinsmann this late can call in an 18-year-old kid, Julian Green, who is playing on a junior team in Germany’s Regional League against teams like this…

    …then Klinsmann can call in Schuler, who is experienced and mature (26 years old) and 6-foot-4. Does anyone know, does Schuler speak German?

    • biff,

      “A fairly strong case could be made that Klinsmann during the past two and one-half years has done a poor job of preparing CB options for the World Cup”

      Go ahead, make that case. I’d love to read it

      As for Schuler vs Green, bringing in a rookie winger is a completely different animal from bringing in a rookie central defender.

      It is true that Wingers can make a mistakes leading to opposition goals.

      However, when a central defender, the last line of the defense, makes a mistake the probabilities are a lot greater that it will lead to real dire consequences.

      So tell me again that having a rookie central defender is just the same as having a rookie winger?

  3. Besler, Gonzalez, Brooks, Ream, Cameron, Fabian Johnson, Beasley, Parkhurst/Evans/Chandler/Yedlin

    This group of people brings the most variation to the table and the best attributes for a World Cup.

    Starting Game 1: Johnson-Besler-Gonzalez-Cameron
    Cameron for Gonzalez: Beasley-Besler-Cameron-Johnson
    Need Calmness in the Back: Ream-Cameron-Besler-Johnson
    Need Areial threat: Johnson-Brooks-Besler-Cameron
    Besler hurt: Johnson-Ream-Gonzalez-Cameron
    Gonzalez hurt: Johnson-Besler-Brooks-Cameron
    Johnson hurt: Beasley-Gonzalez-Besler-Cameron
    Cameron hurt: Beasley-Gonzalez-Besler-Johnson

    Everyone seems to put Besler in their starting lineup, yet doesnt thing about what happens if he gets injured. I do not see Goodson or Orzoco partnering well with another big man, so I see Ream as his best replacement. Everyone harps on Brooks’ game and I can see why, but I do not understand not bringing him for Goodson or Orzoco. If either Goodson or Orzoco had to play in place of Besler or Gonzalez we would already be in trouble. Why not just bring the more of a wild card? Brooks may have more risk but he also has more reward. For a World Cup, where the USA only plays 3-5 games (fingers crossed more) you need to take risks. There is no difference in the tournamnt between a 2-0 loss and a 4-0 loss. Brooks is more likely to do something special in a game. Plus, you dont even have to play him. If you look at the lineups I put above, you could just switch Brooks with quite a few other players and be fine. The experience alone is enough reason to bring him as the 4th CB. Plus if you bring Parkhurst as the the backup RB, then you have 6 potential CB (Besler, Gonzalez, Ream, Brooks, Cameron, Parkhurst). So even if you are super against Brooks, you could still bring him and 5 worthy USA CB options.

    Do I think this is what Klinsmann will do? Not likely, but I do think its an option. And I am just surprised how few people are willing to look at it as an option too.

    Regarding Onyewu, I have always supported the big man, and would love to see him make it, but I put it as more unlikely as Ream and Brooks. Not against him making it either. We have one USA game to base his stuff off, and now that he is healthy, he seems to playing well.

    • @That_Guy: Respectfully disagree that bringing in Brooks just so he can gain WC experience is a valid reason to put him on the 23-man roster. We need the best team possible for WC 2014. Contrary to popular belief, if the USMNT can survive the Group of Death, then we have a damm good chance beating likely opponents either Belgium or Russia in Sweet 16 and making it to the quarter-finals. And if we would get a break in the quarter-final and avoid the two toughest likely opponents France and Argentina, then the semi-final is possible. I agree, not likely, but possible–if we survive Group G, and I don’t see Brooks helping the cause.

      • Hazard, Lukaku, Kompany, Vermalen, Vertongen, Courtois, Mignolet, Fellaini, Dembele, Lukaku, Mirallas, Januzaj

        I appreciate the positive thinking but yikes, our players couldnt even get a whiff from most of the clubs these guys play for.

      • I am sorry, but I have faith in our team. I know Bel is stacked, but look how we were underdogs against a Spanish A team in the confed cup. We fared good and fared good against a A Brazil team .

      • That Guy. I hope they get a whiff of this.
        Three things:
        1. Play with a giant chip on your shoulder.
        2. Play that underdog roll, us against world for all it’s worth.
        3. Play like you know you know how to play. just like you have trained for all your life, for this moment to shine baby!.

      • In 2010 Goodson was unused in the World Cup. God forbid one of our CBs got hurt during, we would have ample replacements (ample meaning better than Brooks, because that is the one we are speaking of). As I mentioned in my original post, Brooks could never see the field with our potential Defenders who go. So simply switching Goodson and Brooks, you feel it is better to bring a 31 year old back up CB than to bring a 21 year old potential (and I use potential bc of your distaste for Brooks) starter? That just seems like you are using your hate for Brooks instead of logic. And if you truly believe that bringing an older guy who has no future with the USMNT (bc of age) and next to zero chance of getting on the field over a 21 future starter because one is marginally better then thats just something I can’t convince you of and we will just have to agree to disagree.

      • Well, I’ve carefully read you comment and it seems you are basing your suggestions for center backs on your hate for Goodson and not on logic. So, I accept your offer that we can agree to disagree.

    • Sorry, but in group play there is a HUGE difference between a 2-0 and 4-0 loss. If points are level, goal difference is the first tiebreaker. And a scenario like the 2009 Confederations Cup where the 2nd, 3rd and 4th teams all had one win and 2 losses and everything fell into place w/ matching 3-0 games is probably extremely remote. We have to hope we have 4 points going into the Germany match and can either keep it close or win because the Germans should have wrapped up qualification by then.

      The only time there is no difference in how bad you lose is the knock-out stages.

      • That is an excellent point. I had not really thought about that, and the flip side of that would be to keep trying to score even if your are ahead. In other words, show no mercy.

      • With the group we are in, goal differential doesn’t seem to have as much of a role in advancing. Of the teams we play, I would argue we have the worst attacking threat, so our goal differential isn’t likely to be good anyway. Plus if our top 3 CB get hurt (Besler, Gonzalez, Cameron), we can already assume the score line is going to get ugly. That is why I am saying the score line doesn’t matter. If we were playing less attacking teams, I would be of a different opinion, but to get out of the Group, the USA has to win. It is that simple. If they do not, I highly doubt our goal differetial is going to get us through.

        So, I am saying that I would not pick a player based off of his ability to “make the team win by less” but pick it based off of his ability to “make the team win”. And in my opinion, Brooks is more likely to make the team win than Orzoco.

        But what is also clear is that potentially using Brooks (and if you see my response to Biff I point out you do not even have to use him) could make for some ugly USA soccer. Its all about risk in the World Cup. Team’s that do not take risks do not go far. I’m just willing to take this risk while others arent.

      • I predict (which is the technical term for “wishful thinking”) that going into the final matches of our group, Germany will have 6 pts, USA 4, Portugal 1, and Ghana 0. (USA beats Ghana then draws against Portugal; Ghana loses to USA then Germany.)

        Thus, Germany won’t need to win—but will anyway. Portugal will play their guts out to defeat Ghana and pull level with the US on pts, to be decided by goal differential. Hopefully that leaves Portugal vulnerable to counterattack and Ghana scores—either enough for a draw, or at least to keep the goal differential in the US’s favor.

        However, given Ghana’s uncanny WC history, it is more likely that they roll over and let in 6 Portugal goals, thereby pushing Portugal ahead of the US on goal differential and yet again knocking the US out of the WC.

        (Note to Klinsmann: could we start looking into recruiting Ghanaians to the USMNT?)

      • (Note to Klinsmann: could we start looking into recruiting Ghanaians to the USMNT?)

        You mean like Fredinho?

  4. I would like to see Andrew Farrell get a camp call up. He is very strong, very athletic, quick, fast… I think he’s one of the better defenders in mls.

  5. I keep thinking that soccer is a team sport. For that reason I would prefer players who have the most team experience. Unfortunately some of the players have not had that much exposure to the team. Of the players mentioned above, Klinsmann should use Besler, Goodson, Gonzalez and Beasley if he returns to health in time. Otherwise I would use Parkhurst who looked pretty good last time I saw him playing with the USMNT. I really disagree with Klinsmann keeping players holding their breath to see if they get the call. Players have to be physically in top form. But somewhere they also have to be mentally at ease. Klinmann’s attempt at getting everyone to try as hard as they can to prove one more time they can play before the world cup is likely to leave them exhausted mentally when the real thing starts.

    • Birgit, Here’s a scenario for you.
      Everybody is locked down in there positions, a long time ago, as you have long wished for.
      So nobody else either feels like they have a shot.
      So why bother.
      Why work hard to excel.
      Why strive to be better.(other than professionalism, pride, honor and all)
      And what if one of those starters goes down,
      now what?, anybody left ready to COMPETE?.

      • Birgit has a good point.
        At some point you have to choose your best options and give them as much time together as possible. To develop an understanding in as many game situations as possible not just practice field.
        When players are playing and don’t feel they can make mistakes, they play tight, play not to lose/not to make mistakes. When you know you can make mistakes and still keep your position, it frees you up to just play. A good coach knows this and it strengthens the team.
        It’s like if your wife/husband was always implying that if you weren’t perfect then she/he has a lot of other options available. (I know it’s not sport), it doesn’t create a positive long term situation.
        He hasn’t applied his “have to be playing and in good form” law evenly, if he did, Dempsey, Altidore et. al. would have not been called in regularly in the past year.
        Using fear to motivate doesn’t last, people resent it (rightfully so) and it’s ultimately counter productive to building a team (or a business, marriage, family, anything etc.). I can teach you how to run or I can point a Glock at your head and tell you to run. Both may have the same end result (you run) but one has a future where you want to be part of the process the other doesn’t. One builds trust and confidence the other distrust and fear. If Klinsmann has the team wired tight at the WC, there will be an implosion a la France in 2010. Fear inhibits the ability to play free. Given the state of affairs in the world it’s worth repeating the phrase “It’s only a game after all”. Play loose, give all you got, no judgement. The outcome is secondary.
        The US and rest of the world has often adopted the Corporate/Machiavellian “bottom line, win at all costs, anti-human, BS”. At it’s core, this thinking is based completely on fear, fear of judgement. And anything with fear at it’s core will ultimately destroy itself. A good look at the world makes this self evident.

      • Daminko,

        You are misinterpreting JK.

        There is a big difference between putting a gun to someone’s head and telling 4 guys you will take the 2 who are willing to show they want it the most.

        The specifics of that challenge are unknown to us but the current uncertainty is not JK’s fault.

        It is the fault of the players because in most cases, no one has stepped forward and won the position outright. Gonzo for example has been given plenty of opportunities to stake his claim and put everyone at ease. Instead he has gone backwards. Which shoots holes in your theory that the way to go is give players a chance to settle in.

        I think that is how you want to be treated but quite often, players are not treated like that and do well anyway.

        Plus these players are not that good and may have a limited shelf life, i.e maybe they only have a couple of good games in them..

        Besides I doubt you know as much about these guys and how they think and feel as JK does. He has spent much more time with them than you or Birgit have..

        Given that I see no problem with waiting until the WC camp to name definite starters. In fact I see no reason to name starters until the last minute.

        The USMNT is the least talented team in the group of death so if they want to get out of it, they will need all 23 players as ready as possible.for the fight of their lives. .

  6. It is amazing how important the backline decisions are for Klinsmann in the Ghana game. Can’t just shrug your shoulders if you get torched in this one and hope to get the points back elsewhere. Can the U.S. win a shootout against Ghana? It might be necessary, and I suppose it can be done if both Dempsey and Bradley are on their games. Besler is the only center back on the roster that I trust, and even he can be shaky. Do you shift Cameron to the middle? Maybe let bygones be bygones, be bold, and go F. Johnson-Besler-Cameron-Chandler (probably the most appealing overall group on paper he could field)? It is a true conundrum, but I know that Gonzalez’s ball watching will likely be a liability against the other teams in this group. It is tough, but that is why Klinsmann gets paid a lot of money, he has to get it right or things will go wrong quickly.

    • What makes that back four so appealing? Playing a guy at CB who hasn’t played there in a year or more, and a guy on the left who (A) May or may not be fit and hasn’t played in a few months and (B) Has had like one good game for the US sounds pretty unappealing to me.

  7. Holy $#!+ guys, Gonzo has had a few bad performances, but he’s also had a few completely dominant, lights out showings. I’m not saying I’m super comfortable with him, but guys saying Geoff Cameron (who hasn’t played CB all year) is ahead of him? Get a clue.

    • he earned his move to Stoke City by playing as a center back. he was a central midfielder and center back his entire career until moving to England. he knows what he’s doing back there

      • James,

        When Tony Pulis was evaluating Geoff, Cameron was playing midfield for the Dynamo. He never gave Cameron any serious look at center back.

    • The team gave up 5 less goals during qualifying in this Hex compared to 4 years ago and didn’t allow any at home. Orozco, Goodson, Cameron, Brooks, Oguchi have all had looks and made there fair share of mistakes. Its just when they make mistakes we all say “well they’re just a back up” and forget about it while each of Omar’s mistakes are examined over and over.
      Set pieces have been a problem no matter who has been on the team over the last year, even giving Belize a goal off a free header.

  8. Klinsman will regret starting goodson he SUCKS i guess yall only have seen him play subpar competition (gold cup) . He is the wondo of the backline. My faith still lies with Omar.

    • +1
      I don’t think anyone has been paying attention to MLS the season his team has only one win. Omar has been playing way better than him.

    • Because you like a guy that is supposedly great in the air but gets beat on every corner? or You have a soft side for guys with ADHD?

  9. Id add Parkhurst to the list. Most likely Cameron’s RB back up but if another RB emerges Parkhurst could easily be our 4th cb.

    Much more expierenced and reliable than orozco or brooks, good partner for Goodson

    Since hockey is in the air;
    First string: Besler-Gonzalez
    Second string: Goodson-Parkhurst

  10. I’d love to see Jurgen have JAB on the roster, if for anything, experience. Much preferred over someone like Orozco.

  11. I honesty can’t figure out how gonzalez was made a starter. Its as if he just found a hole a lineup and claimed without really any merit. Is goodson perfect? No. Do I rate him above gonzalez? Definitely. I think orozco deserves a legitimate chance s well. I’ve been screaming for Ream to get a look but it might a little too late now. Brooks lacks experience but I’m excited for his future and playing along onyewu didn’t exactly do him any favors. Now onyewu… this guy looked bad the last few times he’s played for the U.S and he was playing for his club regularly as well. I honestly don’t care if he’s continued to start for his club. Does anyone really know how well he’s doing? All I know is the last few times he’s suited up for the nats its been a bust.

    • He was relatively solid in qualifing, looking terrible in friendlies doesn’t help but it doesn’t hurt as much as most fans think

      Iv only seen a few LAG games this year, seems to be doing well enough

    • I think there were several factors that put him in the starting lineup:
      1. Boca’s age, along with Gooch’s and Demerits injuries happening in a similar time frame screamed for new blood.
      2. Gonzo was an up and coming dominant tall defender on a team playing for championships.
      Everyone was pointing at him as the future of our backline….

      Then his injury happened and he hasn’t been the same…
      1. Mentally he’s gone from that one big oops a game to a bigger issue. He’s not just prone to one error, but getting caught out of position, ball watching, mental lapses, overall his confidence never seemed to fully return.
      2. Physically he doesn’t look the same either to me. When you watch him turn and run he looks like he has a problem with his hips, very stiff, not as mobile.
      It may be related to the knee, or it may be another issue, but he doesn’t look the same to me.
      I know he’s 6’5″, but I’ll give you an example. Watch the NFL combines and watch the drills LBs, TEs, and WRs do, the scouts are looking at the hips, to see if they are fluid.
      He can run straight ahead, but he doesn’t look as mobile as pre-injury.

      Combine the mental and the physical and you come up with a lotta nervous SBI posters

    • Prior to replacing Bocanegra, Gonzo had been rock solid for LA. The frequent defensive lapses developed after we’d already committed to Gonzo being a starter.

  12. By far thinest position.

    My optimistic theory on Gonzo is that he is a big game player who often slumps in lesser games.

    He is going to need a lot of luck vs Group G tho.

    • When he’s on his game, he’s obviously a very high caliber player. The problem is, we haven’t seen that in a calendar year for the Galaxy or the USMNT.

      • saw it vs. Mexico just recently, go rewatch the first half. second half was not so horrible but shared responsibility on the first goal, yes. 2nd goal? no

        I’m with beto

  13. How confident were we in the defense going into 2010? On paper we gave up 5 more goals during qualifying then, compared to this campaign. The teams we are playing would scare most back lines, but are we really any worse off then we’ve ever been?

    • Yeah, and it was our defense against Ghana that kept us from advancing. I predicted ahead of the WC that our defense would keep us from going past the first knockout round game. Although a lot of people here tout Jay DeMerit, I think he was at fault for a crucial goal vs. Ghana and he was the weakest link in the back, IMO.

      • GP, I do not fully disagree, but I would say that starting Rico C, over Mo Edu, in that one Ghana, match did that one in, man i knew it when I saw the line up, not only was he subbed out before half, trying to pull that stunt off burned and wasted a substitution because he should not have been on the pitch to begin with.

  14. Why not consider Chris Schuler from salt lake. At times he is dominant. Maybe the best player of the playoffs last year. The options are so bad, why not give him a look

    • +1 looks good, might be a long shot to get his first cap this late… But if Green can get a look then Schuler or Hedges could

    • Archie, agree with you there about Schuler, real good feet for a big man.(may even be able to play anywhere along the back line?).

      Green, who beto, had to squeeze in, is being considered for an entirely different role and position. On the left flank I can’t think of any more than three players that could potentially have a greater impact than Green, from the left side?. So that is why I rate him in the top 30, from there who knows?,
      However I affirm,he does have the goods to deliver given the right situation and circumstance.

  15. Why don’t we include Chad Marshall in the Discussion?? The guy has been one of the best CB’s in the MLS for the past 10 seasons! And is dominant in the air just like Gonzales if not more so!!

      • Marshall has been incredible this season for Seattle. He is 3/4th of Seattle’s back line. I’m not sure that I’d play him ahead of Omar, but he’s certainly a contender and may be better than the other options.

    • He looked like he could have been in the pool a couple of years ago, but has not progressed much since. He has almost 0 international experience and that’s not someone you want to rely on in a WC.

      • I think like Alex C said Concussions may have held him back, but Bradley barely gave him a look when he was healthy! So even though he doesn’t have as much international experience I still think he would do well! Gonzales just makes too many mistakes back there!!

  16. Honest question: how has Bocanegra looked this year? Putting aside the rumored blow out with JK of course, I’m just curious how he’s looked.

    • I asked the same question before the Galaxy game as JK was on hand… and got some bad reviews on here.
      When I watched it later on DVR, I had to agree, The soldier looked a few steps slow.
      I haven’t seen any other Chivas games, but I think his better days are behind him.

  17. Considering the fear our backline fills me with… I’d go with this line-up:

    Beasley——-J Jones—-M Edu——–F.J.

    My philosophy, “Our defense sucks! So lets just maximize our offense.”

  18. Everybody here is so quick to totally dismiss Michael Parkhurst from most lists of possible defenders. I for one think he’s going to Brazil mainly because he’s very solid, makes few mistakes AND can play any position on the back line well. That versatility makes him valuable when you have a limited roster size

    • I think his biggest problem is that… He’s sucks. He’s the Wondo of defense will do they job against the Trinidad ans Tobagos of the world but you don’t want him near the pitch against Germany

      • You really don’t want any of our defenders near pitch when the US plays Germany but you don’t have a choice.

        Someone has to play.

      • It’s rare that I resort to hyperbole, but you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about.

        Parkhurst was in a UEFA Champions League Team of the week less than 2 years ago. His bad situation at Augsburg had to do with a very early injury and a coaching change…NOTHING to do with his quality.

        Aside from that stopover, Parky’s had success everywhere he’s played, and he’s looking good for Columbus this year.

        In terms of players who are healthy and have USMNT experience, he’s our best backup FB at the moment.

      • I have thought this for a while about him. I just don’t understand why so many people write him off. It may have to do with an unspectacular showing with the Nats when he was not getting playing time with Augsburg, so he was out of shape

      • @Hogatroge: I also think Parkhurst’ has something to offer the 23-man WC roster and should be considered a strong option. But, please, if you are going to defend him, get the facts right. Parkhusrt’s problems at Augsburg had absolutely nothing to do with a new coach. The coach that brought him in, Markus Weinzierl, was there when Parkhurst left. Someone was claiming this about his coach a few months ago. Was that you?

      • well if memory serves me correctly Parky didn’t look out of his depth against Chelsea in the UCL a few years back, or the whole group stage to be exact! You know what annoys me about some people on these forums is that instead of looking at the players full body of work to justify playing time, posters will focus on 1 or 2 bad moments in a players career as proof that their not good enough! I just wish some folks would come out and say they hate a player instead of giving lame examples to cover up that hate. I’m probably in the minority when it comes to this line of thinking though

    • I wish he was taller… Besler has the smart careful thing covered. We need someone who can be his partner in the air. That’s why Goodson is always in when Gonzo is out.

      Brooks is 6’4 too but sadly I don’t think he is ready to start. He just lacks experience and almost no amount of natural talent will make a perfect CB at 20.

    • +1 Id bring Parkhurst in at CB or RB if we needed to lock down a lead or stop the bleeding. He doesnt have the abilities that others might but he is a consistant and smart defender

    • I expect Parkhurst to go. It’s all about matchups and versatility. JK can put him on the field if the matchup works in our favor. Parkhurst can play the outside back, and if really needed, can fill in at CDM. All it takes is an injury or two, maybe a booking, and suddenly the value of a versatile player increases. This is why Edu is coveted. He can play CDM and in center back.

    • Parkhurst is a RB and this article is about CB’s, I think that’s why he isn’t being mentioned. He should go as a backup RB, IMO.

      • Mr. Page,

        Michael Parkhurst was converted to right back in Denmark. I think Berhalter wants him as a center back for the Crew but agreed to play him at right back.

        He broke into the game as a center back for the Revs. When he moved to Denmark they moved him around eventually settling on right back.

        Michael is like a lot of European players in that he is basically categorized as just a defender. Americans love to pigeonhole players as specialists but study the Europeans and you’ll find lots of players like Parkhurst who move back and forth between fullback, center back and defensive midfield. Sunderland’s John O’ Shea and Wes Brown did that for a long time when they were at Man U. and then Man U replaced them with Jones and Smalling who do the same thing. The Germans, the Dutch, the French, the Italians all have players who play where the team needs them.

      • I think Berhalter agreed to play him at LB. Of course, he’s played 0 games there since he arrived. “LCB” in every game so far.

  19. “Ream has become a crucial member of Bolton Wanderers this year, making 41 appearances at centerback, left back, and even right back.”

    You mean center back, left back and center midfield. Ream has not played RB.

      • If his defense was non existent then how is it Bolton starts him so much and is not in the relegation zone?

      • I just hate this argument that because a player starts he must be good. I also hate the argument, well X team would have bought him if they didn’t believe in him.

      • because there are a lot of mediocre players who start. The teams depth situation and lack of other options sometimes force a guy into a starting role. How many times have we ripped the Sunderland midfield here? Yet each of those players is a starter in the Premier league. That is a heck of a lot better than a starter in the Championship. Michael Stephens is now a starter in Europe, but that doesn’t change the quality of the player.

      • Ream, like someone else we are discussing, was heavily prone to mental lapses a few years back. That and a general softness (in tackle and air) were his main weaknesses. Only Bolton fans with heavy viewing could likely really comment on these areas but it does sound like he has improved.

      • Ream would get both out muscled and out paced. I haven’t seen him lately but that’s what happened to him vs. CONCACF competition when he was in the picture. Perhaps he’s improved on these areas

      • +1 Ream was constantly getting beat by physical players in the past. We call him technical because he can hit a pass or two out of the back. That is a luxury though. His primary responsibility is to defend and he didn’t have enough muscle on his frame the last time I saw him play.

  20. when’s the last time cameron played center back? and how did he look? honest question, because i don’t remember, and i’m not sure why some people are saying he’s the best option after besler.

      • 1) It was sometime after Azteca, I remember him standing there watching as players kept tapping in rebounds or through balls behind him. I just can’t remember who it was that was tapping them in.
        2) He didn’t look good, hence he hasn’t played CB for us since.
        3) Everyone is even more afraid of the other options.

    • also, i keep forgetting about orozco–partly due to his injury, and partly because he seems like a logical replacement for besler, not gonzalez.

      i’ve been very impressed with orozco in recent years. he’s an excellent distributor out of the back (better than besler, in my opinion), and he’s good in the air (defending and attacking) as well, even though he doesn’t look like it. i wouldn’t mind seeing a healthy besler-orozco pairing, though not sure which side each would play on, seeing as their both lefties.

      hopefully he’s fit in time for the camp.

      • +1. Not sure when Orozco has not gotten more kudos. He has shown well for the Nats and has even scored a few times. I like Goodson but I just don’t think he’s a WC player. I like also like Brooks. Pair him with Orozco or Beasler and I think he’ll do far better than he did with Gooch. Gooch too is a fine player but the others listed above have better skill IMHO. Gonzo’s ADD worries me. We should have seen improvement. Yes, he has size, but…

      • Given the tossup between Orozco and Goodson, I’d have to go with Orozco. We already have better CBs with height, and Orozco is more skilled and a better distributor than Goodson. I think he’d be a better backup for Besler, and pair well with a tall CB.

    • It must be human nature when you’re not particularly sold on something that you feel there must be something better. The players being suggested (Edu, Cameron) haven’t had the opportunity to look bad, therefore they look good to people.

      There’s a great analogy here to the GOP primary of 2012. There’s the candidate of destiny (Besler, Gonzo), but few are really sold on it, so they look to anyone else (Edu, Cameron) because they’re unknowns, so maybe they’re great. Not getting political here, it just seems remarkably similar behavior.

      • The thing is, the World Cup is a short term deal , seven games at most if you win the World Cup.

        The great thing about international football is that it is possible to occasionally get players to play way over their head for a few games and make some noise in a tournament.

        Edu, for example, might not be a good center back long term, but he has all the tools and just might be capable of a 3,4 5, game run at the position.

      • Of course, he does have the tools and could play out of his mind for a month. But still the players most likely to do that are still the best regular CBs. The last time I saw Mo play CB was in Mexico alongside Cameron, we all remember that game and they looked good. There have been calls for that pairing to continue since that game. Neither is a CB though, and neither has really shown that moving them to CB from their other positions is a better option than leaving Omar there.

      • Actually, we only need to have players play over their heads for two games–Ghana and Portugal and if we beat Ghana and draw with Portugal, then I’ll be happy and we have a decent chance to advance. Anything after that is gravy and our opponent out of group (likely Belgium) probably won’t be as tough as Germany or Portugal. Just getting out of this group will be a significant success.

      • If they get out of the group, then they need to win that one knockout game to truly make it a success.

        Belgium is arguably three times as talented as the US so there is no great shame in losing to them but on the other hand it would be a shame to waste the opportunity to equal Arena’s achievement.

        If they get that far then they don’t need to be afraid of anyone.

    • Vs Scotland and at Honduras in the beginning of the hex, a couple of other times in 2012 too. Nothing outstading.

      His best game was probably vs Panama in Seattle when he played CM but he has put some good games in at RB too.

    • Cameron is the way to go at center back. he’s a smart player and is miles ahead of Gonzo and Goodson defensively. he may have been playing at right back recently, but his entire previous career has been in the middle of the field (as a defender and midfielder). we have quicker players who can fill the outside back spots which is something we will need when we face the likes of Ronaldo, Reus, Kevin-Prince, etc. he’s not an unknown entity in terms of playing center back: he earned his move to Stoke City based off his play there. he covers all of Goodson and Gonzo’s positives and doesn’t also bring their negatives to the field.

      • Just for clarity, other than his stylish hair cut and being “most vain” by his Stoke teammates, what makes you think he is “a smart player”. He is a strong player. For his size, he is an athletic player. I’m not exactly sure I can say I’ve seen him play “smart”. Boca, sure smart. Dempsey, yes smart. Howard, yes smart.

      • he’s smart on the ball. he’s spent a lot of time taking it up the wing over the past few months; but, as a center back and center midfielder, he has on numerous occasions shown he knows where to put the ball and how to get himself out of trouble.

      • Fair enough. On the ball as a CB or even a RB he doesn’t worry me too much. Most of his mistakes put the ball out of bounds or in the opponents final 3rd. The intelligence I see him lacking is defensively when he doesn’t have the ball. His awareness of runners, and rebounds is lacking. I know you can’t have eyes in the back of your head, but a lot of players are better at this than he is.

      • all this is is looking for the best option at center back for the US. Cameron has his faults, of course, but I believe he is the one who should partner Besler at the back. Cameron is by no means the best defensively minded player in the EPL or even at Stoke; that’s not our range for comparison, though. I absolutely think that Cameron is the best player other than Besler available to us in Brazil.

      • Your not wrong. It is a viable option. It worries me though, that your projected back line now only has 1 starter playing his club position. There is something to being comfortable and having reps at a spot on the field.

      • I’m sold on your case. The man has been consistently playing against too flight offenses, and you can’t say that for any of the defenders in the group.

      • Fabian Johnson gets that nod as well, but your point is taken. Unfortunately not one of our players has seen minutes against quality opposition at the CB position.

  21. You’ve got to go with the highest quality. That means Besler and Cameron. I feel bad for Goodson because he’s never really been horrible but I can’t shake the feeling that players like Kevin P. Boateng, Reus, C. Ronaldo et. al probably lick their chops at the mere idea of going up against him. The Bambi on roller skates image just won’t go away. After Cameron, maybe Edu. The rest just aren’t good enough/experienced enough.

    • At the moment, I would tend to agree. However, with Cristiano Ronaldo and other dangers on the flanks, JK probably wants his only defender starting in the EPL at the position he plays for his club.

      • forgive me if I’m mistaken…but doesn’t Ronaldo play in the center for his national team and not in his standard club position?

      • Nope, he still plays on the left for the national team. I mean… he does whatever he wants but its mostly on the left.

      • I’ve seen Cristiano Ronaldo score from the right wing, the left wing or at center forward. He is very dangerous wherever he plays.

        The US does not have a single defender who is capable of shutting him down for 90 minutes; which is no surprise since I’m not sure anyone can do that.

        The US will have to rely on good old fashioned team defense and hard work to beat Portugal.

      • Portugal tends to play as less than the sum of its parts. Let’s hope that trend continues.

      • I hope you are right, but they don’t always play less than the sum of their parts. Portugal was in the semis of Euro and took the eventual winner, Spain, to the penalty kicks shootout.

      • +1

        and we better be ready to score some goals, can’t imagine many clean sheets from us in that group. so much comes down to the first game

      • I remember Pique absolutely eliminating CR from a match last season. He stuck to CR like they were dating. But the only reason that was possible is that Barca had the ability to make up for Pique essentially being out of the match: it was like the teams were playing 10 v 10.

        Can the US do likewise?

      • Wishful thinking. Pique when healthy is miles ahead of anyone we have, he would also cheat to CRs side to essentially double him, because he had Puyol and a midfield that controlled possession.
        The more likely hope is like I said the other day, JK watches the film of Isco and Carbaol shutting down Robben and Portugal makes the mistake of relying on him to carry them and goes in overconfident

      • Would it be unwise to suggest a steady diet of Jermaine Jones cheating to that side when the whistle is blown…

    • Cameron is the best option to partner with Besler in the center of the defense. regardless of where he’s been playing recently, Cameron excels in the center of the park, be it in the back or in the midfield. beyond his qualifications, Gonzo and Goodson are not reliable in such a crucial position, not even close. Fabian Johnson can play at right back – he’s been playing there, too, for his club team – and Beasley seems to be Klinsy’s number one left back anyway. I don’t think either Johnson or Beasley (or Cameron, Evans, Yedlin, etc.) could handle Ronaldo on the wing. but without a doubt, Beasley and Johnson are the two most agile of outside backs available and that will be key to keeping CR7 as close to under control as we can keep him. and, again, CAMERON IS FANTASTIC IN THE CENTER

      • While I think Cameron is our best option at RB, because of the weakness at CB next to Besler, I think your opinion is right on. This is not only our best defensive lineup, both Beasley and FJ have played a lot at winger and can go forward in attack while having good recovery speed. I had originally projected a FJ, Besler, Gonzalez Cameron lineup from left to right, but Gonzalez and Goodson scare me too much.

      • Beasley gets all he can handle at left back from Concacaf competition. I think it was Jamaica’s winger who ate him alive. Had him a muscled and out run the entire game. When Beasley doesn’t have superior speed, his lack of true defensive skill makes him a liability. FJ is still my leftback of choice. Because he is the only guy I trust to play the position. Rightback we have a few options, none without flaws but flaws I’m more comfortable with than Beasley. I think the tactics from game to game do play a role. Beasley may not be a fit against Nani, but against Lamm and Mueller maybe he makes more sense.

      • Cameron is a better centerback than Gonzo. He had a great game at Azteca paired with Mo Edu.

        But otherwise he has been fair to middling as a USMNT center back. He is prone to errors but they are a little less bad than Gonzo’s errors.

        Still, I’m assuming the World Cup will bring the best out of Geoff.

      • Cameron is prone to errors just like Gonzo. He is just our backup quarterback, everyone loves the backup until they play. They are both ball watchers. People call out Altidore for being lazy, but Cameron and Gonzo are much more guilty of it in my opinion.

      • luckily he isn’t a centerback. Unaware/sleepy fullbacks make it a bit longer. He has 2 excellent centerbacks cleaning up at Stoke. His lack of awareness and falling asleep on plays can be overlooked for that reason. Don’t get me wrong, he is a valuable member of the squad, but he doesn’t have the awareness and hustle that Boca and Demerit had. I want a CB who has his head on straight at all times. Unfortunately our pool of players doesn’t have many of those.

      • Never seen Cameron not give his all or in any way appear lazy, Out of position occasionally, yes, but all defenders have that happen. Your comment has no basis in reality, Speaking of lazy = Dempsey, It’s great that he’s scoring goals, but he consistently stays on the ground when the ball is in play, even around goal. Looking for a card, nagging the ref, frustrated with himself or team mates. If the ball is in play, get up and do something,

  22. Man this group scares the sh&% out of me. Im not sure our two best options (edu and cameron) are even on the list. Not saying I wont them starting but this list is devoid of experience.

    • Gooch is there if you want experience. I think if he starts a game for us in the world cup we will be hurting. You only need two. Besler seems like the smartest choice for 1 of the spots. The other one is debated more. Cameron is reasonable, but if I’m choosing between starting Parkhurst, Beasley or Omar at the world cup, I think I’d rather play Omar. Which means I need Cameron at RB.

    • Ream has been playing really well of late and deserves a spot, if only because he can play well both centrally and wide. You never know what will happen with injuries in a major tournament and that kind of flexibility is useful.

      • what do mean “deserves a spot”? he was exposed for lack of pace and positioning during his last USMNT stint. In this group, we will need defenders, with some mobility and sense of positioning. Give his lack of pace, Ream is way to inexperienced on the international level to survive this group. This general concern extends to all our backline candidates…I just remember the ghana game in 2010, where DeMerit and Boca were just roasted for pace throughout…. Im thinking our best shot is Parkhurst, Cameron, Besler, Chandler.

  23. why do we CONTINUE to include onyewu in this discussion? it’s like a cat with 9 lives….hes AWFUL and cannot find regular playing time – injuries aside – for the better part of what, 5 years?

    • gooch is actually playing now at his most recent club, and has been for the last few months aside from missing a week here and there. Agree with you though, he’s not the answer.

      • We’re up by one with 15 to go and facing an absolute onslaught. The boys are drained. Who do you bring on: the giant with World Cup experience, who dominates in the air or A. Gonzo who has ADHD B. Goodson who blows over when there’s wind C. Brooks who’s a wild card?

        I’d take Gooch. He’s not a starter, but when we’re playing for a result, he’s the best defensive guy off the bench.

        Yes he hasn’t played much but he has recently and that’s all that matters this close to the cup.

      • I’d bring on beckerman or edu to sit in front I the centerbacks and do nothing but play d.

        I see your point somewhat though. With gooch there’s a good chance over the whole game he will get burned several times ( prob more so than gonzo in my book), but if I had to trust someone to not f up the last few mins he’s a decent option.

      • This was my thought too: I’d rely more on bringing in our quality CDMs as opposed to putting faith in Gooch.

      • sorry but I’d trust gooch before I trust gonzo to start a WC game! It says something that OG can’t stay focused for a full 90 minutes, size and aerial domination aside, can we really expect to all of sudden do it in a world cup? I mean he deserves to be on the team but a starter I don’t think so. I think we have to consider sliding Cameron to RCB alongside Besler, with FJ at rb and either Beasley or Ream at lb! People say that Ream doesn’t get forward well but if we have FJ bombing forward on the right side, contributing to the attack, do we really need our lb doing that as well? I think I’d trust Ream to defend better than Beasley and Ream also passes the ball like no one we have on the entire roster! Just my opinion though

      • Cameron certainly has the tools to be a very good CB, but considering he hasn’t played significant minutes at CB in years, I’m afraid it’s probably too late to play that card now. It’s easy to favor “the other guy” but the truth is, in the very few times Cameron has played CB in the last 2 years, he has been mistake prone himself… getting caught too far forward, missing marks etc.

      • I’d bring Gooch because I’d start Gonzo. he played great in the first half vs. Mexico and took too much of the blame for Mexico’s 2 goals…the second was not his fault while many here pegged him with it, and the tactics took too long to adjust to what Herrera did to change the midfield by sticking a player on either side of Beckerman

      • Beckerman got burned on the second goal and was involved in the first. First was a pick… but he was there.

      • Feel you Josh, but I actually think the answer is Edu. He has the ability to scramble for the ball in the box with the best of them, he is less likely to commit that ‘hair’ too slow foul in the box and he has the same World Cup experience Gooch has.

      • Your mistake is thinking that the actual Gooch is the same guy as at least the FIFA version of him. Pre 2009 injury, he was a beast. He’s playing well for an average Championship side. He’s less versatile than Ream and he’s lost his speed. He looked awful against Ukraine which while good is inferior to either Germany or Portugal. Imagine what they could do to him paired up w/ Brooks because of yellow card accumulations.

      • Good insight Josh D. + 10 for Pele!.

        The question mark with Gooch, is will he be fit, given as much confidence as one can have in anyone’s durability?.
        Brooks, is a wild card, it would be good to see him in the 30 man and take it from there.

    • It’s funny to me when people make comments, state a demonstrably false “fact”, and base an opinion off it. Gooch has been a regular starter this year, when healthy. It’d be far more accurate for you just to say “I really don’t like Onyewu! Therefor he must be bad!”

      I’m 95% certain the only game you’ve seen of his was when he was paired with JAB – a forgettable performance. From reports, he’s been solid for Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship, where he’s seeing (arguably) stiffer competition than MLS on a weekly basis. There’s no reason not to be included as a potential.

      • +1

        Regular for FC Twente (2011), regular for Sporting Lisbon (2011/2012), cup player and in the 18 for Malaga (loan 2012/2013), regular for Wednesday (2014). These are fact-facts… Like James says, if you don’t rate leave it at that.

      • He had a pretty good partnership going with Loovens (sp?), they sort of resurrected SW’s campaign and then they both missed time with injury in recent weeks. I think think they both played in the last match, however. Not sure why the gave up so many goals, but it was a pretty quick turnaround after their prior match, so that could have had something to do with it.

      • In the right system and/or situation, Gooch can still be quite solid. I just don’t think his skills and physical attributes fit what Klinsman is trying to do at all. Quality, distribution starting from the back and the ability to hold a high line are pretty key in how Klinsman is trying to play. Both of these happen to be Gooch’s weakest points. He has always been most proficient with back to goal, marking players in front of him, 9 players packed in tight, man handling players and balls in the air… immediately bombing possession/passes over the top.

        I doubt he makes Brazil. The remote chance he has is as a situational sub.

    • Gooch has played plenty recently, except at his last stop (QPR) before Sheffield Wednesday.

      The problem is, he keeps doing well at the club level, getting injured, and the team has to move on without him.

      • And that ability to stay healthy has to be in the kind for selection. Even if not a starter you don’t want guys who can’t give 100% even in training a Etc.

      • I don’t disagree, but the statement “hes AWFUL and cannot find regular playing time – injuries aside – for the better part of what, 5 years?”

        Is literally 100% untrue. If you ignore the time he spent injured, Gooch has consistently found regular playing time (in several countries) at every single stop other than QPR for the last several years.

    • If Onyewu shows well in camp, I think he has a good shot of making the squad. He’s the only CB in the pool with WC experience. He had played well for the Nats in big games in the past. He has also played against tough competition for several years, granted with mixed results. And yes, size and strength do matter. We do not have the skills at this position to match up with the other teams in the pool, so we will be depending on other factors to provide any advantage.


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