Since Steve Cherundolo started having problems with his knee in late 2012, the United States men’s national team has been searching for his replacement at right-back. At the same time, Timmy Chandler has been a regular for Bundesliga side Nurnberg, starting 29 of 34 matches in the 2012-13 campaign and 16 out of 19 games so far this season.
But while Chandler has seen regular action in Germany, he only had one appearance for the USMNT in 2013—in the U.S.’s disastrous performance against Honduras in February.
In the meantime, Jurgen Klinsmann has tried Geoff Cameron, Brad Evans, Michael Parkhurst, Tony Beltran, Michael Orozco, Fabian Johnson and Eric Lichaj at right-back. The results of these experiments have been mixed, at best.
With only four months left until the World Cup, the question must be asked, is it time to bring Timmy Chandler back into the team?
Chandler began playing for the national team in 2011 under former coach Bob Bradley. However, when the 2011 Gold Cup—a tournament which would have cap-tied him—rolled around, Chandler was not included on the team’s roster for the tournament. At the time, Chandler’s absence was chalked up to nagging injuries from the 2010-11 Bundesliga campaign—and conspiracy theories among U.S. fans were born.
As the son of an American father and a German mother, Chandler was still eligible at that point to represent Germany internationally.
After the Gold Cup, Bob Bradley was fired and Jurgen Klinsmann took the reins of the U.S. squad. Chandler immediately became a key member of the squad under Klinsmann starting six of his first seven games in charge. However, when World Cup qualifying—representing another chance to cap-tie the dual national—began in the summer of 2012, Chandler once again was not in the squad.
In November 2012, Chandler reappeared for the team’s friendly against Russia. At that time, Chandler said he was 1000 percent committed to the squad. Although the friendly against Russia did not cap-tie him, Chandler’s appearance against Honduras, in a World Cup qualifier three months later, did.
Against Honduras, Chandler struggled, as did most of the U.S. squad. In the game, Klinsmann attempted to play an off-balance formation leaving Chandler on an island. In addition, the game was played in San Pedro, Sula in near 90-degree temperatures, especially difficult for the German-based players who were used to playing in much cooler conditions in winter Bundesliga games.
Since that game, Chandler has not appeared with the U.S. squad, although no one knows why for sure. Some speculate that Chandler’s absence since then has something to do with Klinsmann believing that Chandler’s heart was not fully committed to the U.S.
Brian Strauss’ article for The Sporting News, published just before the U.S.’s qualifier the next month against Costa Rica, claimed that many players on the American squad were critical of the German-Americans lack of commitment to the team. Since that game, neither Danny Williams, nor Chandler played for the USMNT.
Enough time has passed, though, that Klinsmann should seriously consider calling up Chandler for the Ukraine friendly in March—something Klinsmann has indicated is a possibility. It has become clear over the past several months that Brad Evans is not the answer for the U.S. at right-back. Geoff Cameron can fill the role, but that is assuming he is not needed at center-back or holding midfield.
Parkhurst still has much to do to prove he can regain his Nordsjaelland form and Beltran is clearly not international class. Fabian Johnson is much more likely to play somewhere on the left side than make another cameo on the right, as he did against Mexico in September. Eric Lichaj is an interesting prospect and can play on both the left and right sides, but Klinsmann has only shown a middling interest in the Aston Villa product.
Michael Orozco is also a versatile player and can play on the left, right, or in the middle. However, his game at right-back against Costa Rica in September raised more questions than it answered.
It’s understandable that both Klinsmann and U.S. fans may still have their doubts about Chandler, but it’s time for both to swallow their pride for the good of the team. With the U.S. set to face Ghana, Portugal and Germany in the group stage of the World Cup, a top-class right-back is a necessity.
Hopefully, Chandler will be in the U.S. squad come March.
Follow me on Twitter @JohnDHalloran
Follow me on Facebook www.facebook.com/AmericanTouchline