Predicting Who Will Be USA's Defensive Starters at the World Cup
With the World Cup only seven weeks away, one of the biggest areas of concern, and uncertainty, for the United States men’s national team remains its defense.
Other than center-back Matt Besler and, of course, goalkeeper Tim Howard, who the U.S. will field in the back come June 16 is a mystery.
And with the U.S. set to face Ghana, Portugal and Germany in the group stage, the U.S. defense has become a constant source of worry, and debate, among U.S. fans.
Here’s how the U.S. is likely to line up in the back in Brazil, along with the factors that will affect each choice.
Goalkeeper: Tim Howard
There’s little doubt, barring injury, that Tim Howard will be the man between the sticks for the U.S. in Brazil.
Not only has he remained a consistent and, at times, world-class presence for the U.S., he is also performing at the top of his game for Everton at the moment.
Left-Back: DaMarcus Beasley
Who starts for the U.S. on the left side of the defense will have a lot to do with how the rest of the team lines up. DaMarcus Beasley has been a consistent presence for the U.S. over the past year at left-back, even captaining the American squad in the Gold Cup.
Beasley still has enough of his trademark speed to stay with speedy attackers and battles well, even in the air, despite his limited size. Fabian Johnson is most fans’ first choice on the left, but Jurgen Klinsmann has preferred Beasley in the back and typically used Johnson in the midfield.
One wild card in the Beasley selection could also be fitness, as Tom Marshall of MLSsoccer.com reported that Beasley suffered an injury in last weekend’s Liga MX action and will be out for an undetermined period of time.
Center-Back: Matt Besler
Surprisingly enough, Matt Besler, who only has 14 caps for the U.S., has been the team’s most consistent defensive performer since Klinsmann decided to drop Carlos Bocanegra last spring.
Besler provides the U.S. with solid positioning and good possession out of the back. Most importantly, however, he tends to avoid the “howler”-type mistakes typical of his most frequent center-back partner, Omar Gonzalez.
Center-Back: Omar Gonzalez
Despite a rough patch of form for both club and country over the past few months, Omar Gonzalez is still most likely to start alongside Matt Besler in Brazil. Gonzalez is a weapon in the air, but often makes mistakes in possession and positioning. Most unforgivable are the moments in which he “switches off” and allows opponents to drift into the area unmarked.
Gonzalez’s performances of late have even left some fans nostalgic for the days of Clarence Goodson as a starter. Goodson has always been consistently average and a bit too slow for the international level, but he also avoids the kinds of mistakes that have come back to haunt Gonzalez.
A final choice could be Geoff Cameron, who plays consistently for Stoke City in the English Premier League. However, Cameron almost always plays at right-back on the club level and, like Gonzalez, has made some key mistakes when deployed at center-back for the U.S.
Right-Back: Geoff Cameron
Geoff Cameron is not a prototypical right-back, but has, arguably, been the U.S.’ most consistent performer in Europe over the past two years. He plays right-back week in and week out for Stoke City and usually does so exceptionally well.
Under new manager Mark Hughes, Cameron has also gotten forward more this year, alleviating some concerns among U.S. fans that Cameron didn’t help the attack enough to fit into Jurgen Klinsmann’s system as an outside back.
One wild card that could be thrown into the mix at right-back is the fact that Fabian Johnson has been playing on the right for the past few months for Hoffenheim. That could create a battle between Johnson and Cameron on the right, or free Cameron up to move into the center-back position.
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