By FRANCO PANIZO
Right back is not a position that the U.S. Men’s National Team normally struggles to fill, but Jurgen Klinsmann is going to have to get creative with it this Wednesday.
The U.S. is set to host Mexico at the Alamodome in four days, but will likely do so without a number of its top right back options. The sold-out friendly is not being played on an international fixture date, meaning that European-based players like Fabian Johnson, DeAndre Yedlin and Timmy Chandler are not required to be released by their clubs.
That combined with there not being a surplus of capable right backs in MLS or Liga MX will force Klinsmann to dive deep into his depth chart, with the U.S. head coach having to decide whether he wants to slide a centerback or left back to the right side of the defense or go with a more natural option.
Who does Klinsmann have to choose from exactly? Here’s a closer look at some of the right back options for the upcoming match with Mexico:
Has some experience at right back, knows Mexico’s attacking players after years in Liga MX, and possesses the kind of calmness on the ball that Klinsmann likes out of his defenders. The Puebla veteran might not be able to get forward as well as Yedlin and Chandler, but still has the ability to contribute something to the attack. Some observers may want to see Orozco at centerback again after his strong outings in March, but the bevy of available options there could force him to the outside.
Like Orozco, Alvarado can fill in at right back in a pinch. He has played there before for Club America, and Klinsmann may want to give his newcomer a look there to see how versatile Alvarado is. Alvarado also has a familiarity with Mexico’s domestic-based roster, and that will likely be something Klinsmann considers when trying to settle on a lineup.
While he’s a natural left back, Garza could flip to the other flank in this one. His defensive skills are solid enough that the transition might not be too difficult, but the Tijuana starter is more of a stay-at-home defender and likely will not add much to the attack. He’s another player that knows Mexico’s team well, which could serve as a big benefit for the Americans.
The Orlando City player is a candidate, but seems less likely to play on the right than the aforementioned options. He’s only recently transitioned from left midfield to left back, so Klinsmann may want to hold off on moving Shea positionally again. Still, Klinsmann is far from conventional and has said that he intends to continue experimenting.
Played at right back for the U.S. a good amount last cycle, and could be asked to do so again if called into this camp. Evans is not the most dynamic player available, but he is able to get into the attack and serve as an outlet for midfielders to play through. The Seattle Sounders have been using him in defense this season, so his skills on that side of the ball should be plenty polished.
One of the top players at his position in MLS, Sarkodie could earn his first call-up from Klinsmann due to the lack of available natural right backs. He has proven with the Houston Dynamo that he can both defend and get forward, and has previous experience playing with U.S. youth national teams. Assessing new talent is still on Klinsmann’s agenda, which gives Sarkodie a chance of getting a look.