photo by Nick Turchiaro/USA Today Sports
By FRANCO PANIZO
One of the U.S. Men’s National Team’s talented up-and-comers will have to wait for a chance to build on his promising debut.
Steve Birnbaum delivered a solid outing in his first international appearance in the Americans’ 3-2 defeat to Chile on Jan. 28, but will not have the opportunity to play again in Sunday’s match against Panama because of an injury. Jurgen Klinsmann informed reporters Saturday that Birnbaum was ruled out for the friendly at StubHub Center with a minor knee problem, but neither the German-born head coach nor U.S. Soccer disclosed any details beyond that.
“He’s been sharp from the first day on and understands the opportunity that came across, and it’s a bummer (an injury) obviously keeps him out of this one game,” said Klinsmann. “But most importantly is that he’s going to be healthy in the next couple days and continue preseason with D.C. United, so definitely a very positive experience for Steve. Yes, it changes a little bit our approach, how we’re gonna play the back line.”
Birnbaum, 24, was one of three Americans to see time in their first U.S. match last week. The D.C. United defender started the friendly in Chile on the right side of a new-look, three-man defense, and earned mostly positive reviews for holding his own defensively.
His absence could mean that one of Matt Hedges or Perry Kitchen earns a start vs. Panama, though Klinsmann could opt to go with a four-man back line and deploy Jermaine Jones and Matt Besler in the middle.
How disappointing is it for Birnbaum to have to sit out the Panama game? Who should start in his place? Think Klinsmann sticks with a three-man defense now?
Share your thoughts below.