By now, you know who the United States will be playing at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but it is time to question how the Americans will play in Brazil come June.
Against three very good attacking sides, the American defense must be stronger than ever, but strong is not an adjective that many would use to describe the back four of the Yanks.
Jurgen Klinsmann's team will be able to get by with the center-back pairing of Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler, although they will not be perfect in Brazil, they are the best duo to start at the position.
As for who will be flanking the pair of Major League Soccer players at full-back in six months time, that is the great unknown.
Klinsmann has used a plethora of players at the full-back positions in the last year with DaMarcus Beasley on the left and Brad Evans on the right being the favored combination toward the conclusion of the Hex.
Beasley is a veteran that any nation would love to have in their squad because of his experience, but seeing him go up against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Marco Reus, Mario Gotze and Andre Ayew is a nightmare that American fans want to wake up from instantly.
Evans is a converted midfielder that has done well when called upon during CONCACAF play, but doubts still remain with the play of the Seattle Sounders man.
The best option that the Americans currently have at full-back is the versatile Geoff Cameron, who has been playing at right-back at the club level with Stoke City in the English Premier League.
Another option at right-back is Steve Cherundolo, who at 34 has been marred by injuries in the last year, but if all goes right in the next six months, he should be available for selection in Brazil:
Steve Cherundolo saw the field for Hannover. He was a last minute sub but significant since it was his first game since May 18. #USMNT— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) December 1, 2013
Having Cherundolo as an option at the position would make Klinsmann's life a bit easier, but the veteran of the last two World Cups is getting up there in age and there would be uncertainty swirling around his capability to play at the highest level against some of the best players in the world.
Who will start at right-back in Brazil?
Then, there is the wild-card that is Timothy Chandler, who has a bit of a commitment issue when it comes to the United States.
If Chandler wants to play in Brazil for the Yanks and has the right mindset, he could end up as the starter at right-back, but for now, Cameron is the favorite.
At left-back, the player who should be able to handle the explosive offenses of Germany, Portugal and Ghana is Fabian Johnson.
During the summer, Johnson was employed in a more forward role on the left side of the midfield, but it would do the Yanks all sorts of good if the 25-year-old Hoffenheim player could play effectively at left-back.
Just like Cherundolo, Johnson has had injury concerns of late and if his injury issues act up before Brazil, Beasley will most likely be handed the starting role at left-back.
Who Will Start at Left-Back in Brazil?
Other unconventional options at either position would be Eric Lichaj, who is playing on a consistent basis at Nottingham Forest, at right-back and Edgar Castillo at left-back, but those are last-ditch options for Klinsmann.
There is no doubt that the play of the full-backs, and the back four as a whole, is the biggest concern that the Yanks have heading into Brazil. Klinsmann must make the right personnel decisions to adapt to the rigors that Group G presents.
If that requires ditching two veterans and leaving them on the bench for depth and letting two younger players run with Nani, Ronaldo, Ayew, Gotze and Reus, then so be it.
The United States are going to Brazil with the mentality that they can advance to the knockout stage, but that will only happen if they get their act together defensively, especially at the two full-back positions.
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