USMNT: What Happens at the Center-Back Position After Mexico Debacle?

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 3, 2014

Mexico midfielder Marco Fabian (8) goes up for the ball in front of U.S. defenseman Omar Gonzalez (3) during the first half of an international friendly soccer match Wednesday, April 2, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rock Scuteri)
Rick Scuteri

With just over two months remaining until the United States takes the field for its first World Cup match against Ghana, the same questions still linger about how effective the back four will be in Brazil. 

One player in particular raised plenty of doubts about his potential starting spot in Wednesday's 2-2 draw with Mexico.

Omar Gonzalez, who many assumed before the Mexico match would be the center-back partner of Matt Besler in Brazil, now has a ton of work to do to remain in the good graces of United States manager Jurgen Klinsmann. 

Gonzalez's failure to mark a few players in crucial situations cost the Americans in a heated game played at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

After putting in a solid 45 minutes alongside Besler, the L.A. Galaxy center-back failed to shake off a pick play run on a set piece by El Tri. 

Due to his inability to recognize the situation, Gonzalez got tangled up with Kyle Beckerman and let Rafa Marquez fly in toward goal alone to score in the 49th minute. 

Making one mistake is a forgivable offense, but committing another vital error almost 20 minutes later was unacceptable for a player who is supposed to be strong enough to hold the attacks of Ghana, Portugal and Germany to a minimal number of goals. 

The worst part about the second mistake made by Gonzalez was that it was an even worse offense than his first as he seemed to doze off in the middle of an important play. 

Seconds before Gonzalez let Alan Pulido sneak behind him and score the equalizing goal, Nick Rimando made a save that caused the ball to bounce over near the left post. 

Had Gonzalez been defending properly, he would have been able to track Pulido's run and potentially force a clearance and avert danger. 

Instead, Gonzalez handed American fans a discussion that should not be had two months before a World Cup. 

Thanks to the ineptitude of Gonzalez on Wednesday night, there is now an open competition for the second center-back spot in the starting 11 alongside Besler, who played a solid 59 minutes before being taken off in favor of Clarence Goodson.

Klinsmann made that substitution because he got exactly what he wanted out of Besler and didn't need to see anything else from him. 

Goodson, who is one of Gonzalez's potential replacements, didn't do anything wrong in his time on the pitch, but he also didn't do anything truly impressive to convince Klinsmann to mark his name with a sharpie in the starting 11 for the Ghana match.

Klinsmann now has to evaluate if Gonzalez is going to be effective enough in the group stage of the World Cup in a short amount of time with three friendlies left before the team leaves for Brazil.

There is no doubt that Gonzalez will be in the preliminary squad of 30 players, but he will also be joined by the likes of Goodson and Geoff Cameron as candidates for starting center-back.

Goodson is the safe pick of three as he doesn't make many mistakes at the back, but he may not have the closing speed to deal with the speedy attacks that the Yanks will face in Brazil.

No one knows what to do with Cameron, who plays at right-back for Stoke City in the English Premier League. 

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: Geoff Cameron of Stoke City in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Hull City at Britannia Stadium on March 29, 2014 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo by Paul Thomas/Getty Images)
Paul Thomas/Getty Images

Cameron can play right-back, center-back and in the defensive midfield, and he is a quality player who deserves a shot in Brazil given his form at the club level. 

Cameron is seen as a better center-back, but his style of play is too similar to Besler, which in theory would leave Gonzalez and Goodson competing for a starting position. 

Based on his most recent showing in the red, white and blue, Gonzalez must be nervous about his chances to start against Ghana on June 16 in Natal. 

Two months will go by extremely fast, and with so much still up in the air, the forwards on the rosters of the three other teams in Group G must be licking their chops at the proposition of facing Gonzalez, especially after Wednesday night's meltdown. 


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90. 


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