CARY, N.C.– Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers have a combined age of 42 and have seven appearances for the U.S. Men’s National Team.
While some young center backs may be overwhelmed by the moment at the senior level, the 22-year-old Miazga and 20-year-old Carter-Vickers treated Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Paraguay as another step in their pairing.
The pair of European-based players were a part of a USMNT defensive unit that limited Paraguay’s attacking opportunities in a 1-0 victory.
“Outstanding today. Outstanding,” USMNT interim manager Dave Sarachan said. “Carter-Vickers didn’t put a foot wrong, or Matt in my opinion. Obviously they know one another, and I thought they played with confidence, played with physicality and just a pairing that looked like they’d been there before for a young twosome.”
The chemistry from the pair comes from the youth levels, where they were counted on during the U-20 World Cup and Olympic qualifying, two experiences that presented them with a unique set of challenges.
“I think we know each other from the past,” Miazga said. “We’ve played a while together, We know each other’s tendencies and it showed today. We knew how to cope with each other and cover each other and I think it ended up going well. We got a clean sheet, which is the most important thing.”
“We’ve been playing together for about the last three years with youth national teams in under-20 World Cup and Olympic qualifying,” Miazga said. “It helps when I have a chemistry built with him. It makes it an easier transition to play together.”
The lone mistake came in the 66th minute, when a quick pass out of the back from goalkeeper Zack Steffen caught Miazga off guard and let to a surge into the box from Atlanta United’s Miguel Almiron, who had his shot blocked by Wil Trapp.
“We talked about it after. It’s all good,” Miazga said. “As long as nothing happened after that. A little miscommunication, but it’s all good. I think the defense played well, including Zack. I thought we held them to really no chances. It was a solid performance from everybody.”
With a new World Cup cycle beginning early due to the failure to qualify for Russia, Miazga and Carter-Vickers appear to have the upper hand in the competition at center back.
Outside of 25-year-old John Brooks, most of the center backs used throughout the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign are close to or over 30, which makes it harder for them to stick around for 2022.
Miazga, who is at Vitesse in the Eredivisie, and Carter-Vickers, who is on loan at Ipswich Town from Tottenham, are near, or at, the top of the depth chart even when Brooks comes into the fold.
Justen Glad, Walker Zimmerman and Erik Palmer-Brown are among the candidates jockeying for position beneath them, but it appears the gap is widening, especially if Miazga and Carter-Vickers play like they did on Tuesday.
The challenge for Sarachan and the new manager named later this year is what to do with three in-form healthy center backs in Brooks, Miazga and Carter-Vickers.
There’s a possibility down the road that all three could work themselves into the starting lineup by utilizing three at the back, but that’s a decision to be made later.
For now, Miazga and Carter-Vickers head back to Europe for the conclusion of their respective club season in good position to return to the USMNT in May and June for a trio of games, and play a similar role as the USMNT embarks on three games in 12 days.