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SBI Question of the Day: Which position is biggest concern for USMNT heading into March qualifiers?

Bruce Arena’s roster has been ravaged by injuries as World Cup qualifiers loom. Several players, most of which were presumed starters, will not be joining camp as the U.S. Men’s National Team faces a pair of vital World Cup qualifiers.

Naturally, there are some concerns.

Bobby Wood, Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin headline the notable injury absences for the U.S., who enter clashes with Honduras and Panama severely short-handed. Meanwhile, Brad Guzan remains away from the team following the birth of his daughter, while long-time midfield starter Jermaine Jones is suspended for the opening clash. Arena has some decisions to make, and fast, in a number of key positions.

Left back has long been a weakness for the U.S., and even before Johnson was hurt, Arena had made it clear he planned to move the long-time USMNT fullback option to a wing midfield role. Veteran DaMarcus Beasley appears to be the leading candidate to start there, though Arena has talked up Jorge Villafana as a starting option after his impressive showing in January. Beasley has the big-game experience, but does he have a few more strong qualifying performances left in him?

The same issues plague the right back spot thanks to Yedlin’s injury. Michael Orozco seems the most likely option, while Graham Zusi’s recent move to the position makes him a candidate. Geoff Cameron is also someone that could play there in a pinch, but Arena should be wary of breaking up the Cameron-John Brooks duo. If Cameron does move out wide, a veteran like Omar Gonzalez could slide in his place, but Arena should be hesitant to break up a defensive pairing that has been extremely consistent together. Even Brooks is a bit of a question mark as he joins camp with a slight knee injury.

Up top, the U.S. is a bit deeper, even with the injury to Wood. A regular starter since his breakout showing at Copa America, Wood is out with a back injury, leaving Arena to figure out what to do now. Jozy Altidore is in good form and Clint Dempsey has returned, giving plenty of experience up top. Still, there are concerns, especially regarding Jordan Morris, who received treatment on Tuesday during the USMNT’s training session.

Finally, there’s the central midfield, a spot which will be fine for the second match. Jones remains the likely starter alongside Michael Bradley, but his suspension makes things interesting. Sebastian Lletget may step in to the central midfield gap, but the LA Galaxy midfielder earned his first cap during January camp. Kellyn Acosta has just one World Cup qualifying cap, but it was as a left back. Dax McCarty, the most veteran option, has never played in a qualifier.

With all that in mind, SBI wants to know which position has you the most worried heading into the March qualifiers? Is it left back? Right back? Are the forward options keeping you up at night?

Cast your vote here:

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  1. got to be FW.

    LB has always been an issue. Between Villafana, Ream, Beasley even Besler we have just as good of options as we ever have. none of them are Roberto Carlos but all good enough to play effectively in concacaf.

    RB after Yedlin is concerning. hoping to see Orozco shine in these games. just like FJ I would like to see Cameron played at his best position (CB or CDM) not just the one he is needed to fill.

    FW in the camp is really concerning. Wood, Morris out. Dempsey and Altidore anything but reliable and effective going forward.. Wondo is the next man up?!? Pulisic is going to have to carry this offense – not that he can’t do it but that’s a lot to ask of the kid.

  2. “Jones remains the likely starter…”- how is this still possible? Are we trying to qualify for the 2006 World Cup again? Experience is great, but at some point, you are no longer the best player. Beasley was not good against Panama in the Gold Cup. Wondolowski has not been good enough. Why do our coaches have no vision for who will be good at the end of a cycle? This is as bad as Klinsmann. If Jones is such a tenacious presence, why were we run off the pitch against Mexico in the Confed Cup, with him on the field? Why were we drilled in Costa Rica, with him on the field? At some point, it is time to get other guys experience and opportunity.

    • The reality is that Jones has been our best central midfielder for some time. He seems to rise to occassion in big games and brings leadership and toughness. I have been a huge fan of Michael Bradley throughout his career but he has not playing to the level he is capable of the last 1.5/2 years, so we do actually need Jones. Unless Bradley steps up big, I think Jones absence in the middle of the field will be our biggest concern.

    • I have never understood the distaste for Jones. The guy is money in big games and has been an historic usmnt player. He was, without question, the top US performer in the last World Cup. He was also very good in the Copa America Centenario.

      People see what they want to see.

  3. I have three that come to mind for various reasons.

    Leftback: Arena wants to move our only viable option to a position we already have relative depth in. Remains to be seen if we have anyone capable of stepping up.

    Striker: Altidore’s health remains a huge concern at any given time, and outside of Wood we have far too many questions than answers.

    Goalkeeper: Who’s the next in line? Many thought it would be Guzan after Howard, and he may still be, but both Howard and Guzan have regressed significantly during long stretches of the last few years. That’s not to say either are lacking the capability to perform still at a high level, but this position was once the stalwart of our entire team. Now? Depends on the month.

    • Keeper scares the crap out of me. I like Guzan and always backed him to fill right in and carry on where Howard left off. That was while he was starting in the EPL, I still have faith in him and hope someday he has a chance to show what he is made of even if it is a short opportunity. The real issue is after him which is weird to say, because we aren’t far from it. We have nobody who has stepped up and proven they are a show stopper at any level in any league. We have big athletic guys but who is going to show the keeper IQ like Howard? I always thought Hamid would be the guy, I know injuries have been an issue for him but it is telling when we always bring Rimando in as our third.

  4. Fabian Johnson will be missed, but probably more at left back. Nagbe can play left mid very well, and if he and Pulisic start, the wide game can be very dangerous.


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