United States: How Can the Defensive Problems Be Fixed?
On Wednesday against Russia, the United States defense was up to its usual ways under manager Jurgen Klinsmann.
The usual ways in the Klinsmann era have consisted of horrible defending and the inability to competently defend for a full 90 minutes against the weakest and strongest of opponents.
The ugly defense reared its head in the match against Russia on both goals that were conceded by the Americans.
In the ninth minute, Danny Williams' inability to take a quick free kick resulted in the Russians gaining possession and the American center back pairing of Carlos Bocanegra and Geoff Cameron being out of position.
The result of the poor decision making by Williams was a goal by Fedor Smolov.
The second breakdown in defense came late in the second half when Clarence Goodson, who replaced Bocanegra in the first half due to an injury, was caught out of position and took down Artem Dzyuba in the penalty area.
Dzyuba earned a penalty for the hosts and Roman Shirokov delivered what seemed to be the winning goal in the 84th minute.
Luckliy for the United States, they were saved by a last minute equalizer from Mix Diskerud and the match ended at a 2-2 draw.
However, there are still plenty of concerns about the lack of defending that the back four, mainly the center backs, did during the whole of 2012.
Who Should Play at Center Back for the USMNT?
In the past year, 14 different players have started in the four defensive positions and very few have been able to stand out as top performers on the team.
There are some solid players in the American defense at the fullback position with Steve Cherundolo and Fabian Johnson having solid years with the national team.
The center back position is where the Americans have come across with plenty of issues.
It is clear that captain Bocanegra is not the player he once was and it is not a guarantee that Captain America will make it to Brazil at this point.
Another member of the 2010 World Cup squad that may not make it to Brazil is Goodson.
Goodson has done nothing to prove to American fans and Klinsmann that he is capable of holding down a spot in the starting lineup, and his second half error in Russia on Wednesday is just the latest example of his incompetence in defense.
It would be a bold move by Klinsmann to not include either of these players in the roster for the first hexagonal round match at Honduras in February, but it may be what is needed.
Of the players that could handle the center back position, Geoff Cameron has been one of the few defenders that has stood out for all the right reasons.
Cameron's success at Azteca against Mexico in August earned him a permanent spot on the roster, and his form for EPL side Stoke City has earned him a consistent starting spot alongside Bocanegra.
There are a few players that could also play alongside Cameron if Bocanegra's form continues to drop.
The first player who comes to mind is Omar Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Gonzalez last appeared in an United States jersey against Venezuela in January and has earned another call-up to the team thanks to his form in MLS this season.
Another MLS player who may be worth another shot is Jay DeMerit of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The 32-year-old has earned 25 caps for the USMNT and was a part of the last World Cup squad in South Africa.
Bringing in DeMerit may go against the youth policy that Klinsmann has established, but bringing in a hungry, experienced defender may be a direction to go in.
Another option may be to bring the often-injured Oguchi Onyewu back into the squad.
Onyewu was a constant force in the USMNT setup under Bob Bradley and has finally recovered from his injury struggles.
The Gooch, as he is affectionately known by American fans, is fighting to get into the first team at Malaga in La Liga—he is on loan at the club from Sporting Lisbon.
When he is healthy, Onyewu is a strong center back and also an aerial threat in the penalty area on set pieces.
The other options that Klinsmann has are relatively inexperienced like George John, Matt Besler and Tim Ream.
No matter who Klinsmann brings into the USMNT lineup in 2013 at center back they will have to do better than the players at the position did in 2012 or the American hopes of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup could be in jeopardy.
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