Photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
The U.S. Men’s National Team entered the last two World Cups not spending all that much time worrying about their right back situation, but that will not be the case this year.
The retirement of the long-serving and solid Steve Cherundolo earlier this year was just the latest reminder that, for the first time in a long time, the right side of the Americans’ back line is up for grabs ahead of a World Cup. Jurgen Klinsmann has a bevy of players available to be Cherundolo’s successor, but what makes things tricky for the U.S. head coach is that not all of them are capable of getting forward as often as he likes and they all lack World Cup experience.
Geoff Cameron, Brad Evans, and Timmy Chandler are just some of the options Klinsmann has right now and so is Fabian Johnson, though he is projected to be a left-sided player this summer. But deciding on which of them suits up against Cristiano Ronaldo and the rest of the U.S.’s tough group opponents in Brazil will be something that will need to be carefully weighed to help ensure the Americans have a shot at piecing together some strong defensive performances.
Here is a closer look at the current pool of right backs:
The versatile Cameron is a lock to be in Brazil, and he is the one player who has been seeing consistent minutes at right back at an elite level in recent months. Cameron, 28, does not get forward as well as some of the other options listed, but he has shown at Stoke City that he is a very solid defender who occasionally can jump into the attack. What hurts Cameron’s chances of starting at right back against Ghana is that he might be called upon to play in the heart of the defense given the Americans’ recent centerback struggles.
Another versatile option, the Seattle Sounders veteran showed well in 2013 while serving as a makeshift right back. His recent outings have shown some of his shortcomings at the position, however, leaving some to question whether he will make it to Brazil. The 29-year-old Evans is a capable defender who can add to the attack, but he has not gone up against the level of competition that the U.S. will see this summer on a frequent basis and that will surely be something Klinsmann considers when making roster decisions.
Recently recovered from a knee injury that seemed to end his apparently slim chances of being in Brazil, Chandler is making a very late push at FC Nurnberg to earn an invite to Klinsmann’s pre-World Cup camp. The 24-year-old fullback has quite a few things going in his favor – his versatility, propensity to whip in crosses and ability to motor up and down the flank – but that still might not be enough to erase the fact that he was absent for much of the qualifying campaign by his own choice.
The Columbus Crew defender is able to play any spot across the back line and that will boost his case for being on the plane to Brazil. Parkhurst, 30, has shown to be a solid option at right back when deployed there by Klinsmann, and he is also able to overlap and get forward every now and again. That said, Parkhurst will need to have a strong pre-World Cup camp to see off the other versatile options and earn his place on the final 23-man squad.
An admitted long shot for Brazil, Yedlin still has a chance to sneak onto the roster if he is invited to the pre-World Cup camp and impresses. The speedy youngster looked more polished and at ease in his second cap in the U.S.’s 2-2 draw vs. Mexico last month, and that combined with his steady performances with the Seattle Sounders makes him an intriguing depth option that might be worth a longer look. Yedlin, 20, is a player Klinsmann is high on, but that still does not guarantee him a place on the 30-man roster that will convene in Stanford, California, next week.
The consistent Beltran has been called upon by Klinsmann for the occasional look in recent years, but the odds of him making it to the pre-World Cup camp seem slim given how many other options are available. The Real Salt Lake defender also wasn’t overly impressive against Mexico in the April friendly in Phoenix, Arizona. That performance may have placed the final nail in the coffin for the 26-year-old veteran’s hopes of playing in his first World Cup.
What do you think of the current state of the USMNT’s right back spot? How many of these players would you bring to Brazil? Who would you like to see start versus Ghana?
Share your thoughts below.