Not even the most ardent U.S. fan can argue that the U.S. defense is not in need of a makeover.
Carlos Bocanegra, who will be 35 when the 2014 World Cup kicks off and who is playing second division football in Spain, is currently the U.S.’ best center-back.
And while Geoff Cameron has shown promise, he is still relatively inexperienced in international or top-flight play with only 11 caps for the national team and 11 appearances for Stoke City (the rest of his professional career was spent in Major League Soccer).
After a series of disappointing national team performances and a rough club season, it appears that Clarence Goodson could be nearing the end of his national team career.
Tim Ream has had a disastrous season for Bolton, seeing appearances in only seven of Bolton’s 17 games and having one of his performances described as a “nightmare” by the Manchester Evening News. And his previous USMNT appearances were not spectacular to begin with.
John Anthony Brooks, the 6’ 7” center-back for Hertha Berlin in Bundesliga 2 could be an option, but he was also recently called up for Germany’s U-20 squad and as a dual international could still choose Germany.
Maurice Edu has been listed on the last two U.S. rosters as a defender, but ironically appeared as a center midfielder in both of those games. Edu has also only seen one appearance for Stoke City and that was as a late-game cameo substitute. And, in two other appearances at center-back for the USMNT, Edu put in mediocre performances.
Omar Gonzalez seems to be an obvious choice, especially after 2011 MLS Defender of the Year honors and helping the LA Galaxy to a strong regular season finish this year. Gonzalez has also looked good for most of the MLS Playoffs, but struggled mightily Sunday night against Fredy Montero and Eddie Johnson, as the Galaxy played the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference Finals.
Other potential choices could include Seb Hines, Zak Whitbread, George John, Matt Besler or Alfredo Morales, but one thing is clear. If the U.S. doesn’t find some depth at center-back, and soon, qualifying for the World Cup will not be easy.
The lone bright spot for the U.S. in terms of its defense is the comparative depth of the outside-back pool which includes Steve Cherundolo, Fabian Johnson, Michael Parkhurst and potentially Timmy Chandler, Edgar Castillo, Eric Lichaj and Greg Garza.