Where's Waldo? The Search for a U.S. Left-Back
It may not be the flashest of positions, but it is one of the most important to the defense and team as a whole. In the past couple of years, we have seen a revolving door of left-backs, none of whom that could hold down the spot for longer then a few games.
With the Klinsmann era starting and a new World Cup cycle beginning, we need to take a look at our options at left-back.
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Klinsmann's latest favorite, Castillo plies his trade at Puebla, south of the border. Considered a coup when he chose the U.S over Mexico, he has struggled in the recent round of friendlies.
Too often, Castillo is pushed off the ball and he doesn't seem to have the attacking ability to play the type of full-back needed in Klinsmann's 4-3-3 formation. It would seem his time as the starting left-back is fading away.
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Once considered the future of the USMNT at left back, Heath Pearce hit a rough patch in Europe and his lack of club minutes led to his exclusion from the national team scene.
Back in 2005, Heath had established himself as first choice in the Danish super league with FC Nordsjælland and that led to a 2007 transfer to the Bundesliga with Hansa Rostock. A fallout with club followed by a demotion to the reserves caused his fall from the national team.
A transfer to MLS followed, with stops at F.C Dallas and his current team, Chivas. While he may not be the Heath Pearce of old, his consistent playing time should warrant a January call-up.
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At the tender age of 30, he is not the youngest of options, but Todd might be the band aid we need until the left-back of the future arrives.
Not seeing national team time since 2006, he is having a solid season for MLS runaway leaders, L.A Galaxy. Aside from anchoring the left side on MLS's best team, he already has 4 assists, his most since 2004, showing a willingness to go forward.
Dunivant may not be the solution in 2014, but he might be just what we need to hold us over.
The mystery man of the recent call-ups, Fabian is a 23-year-old left mid who plays for 1899 Hoffenheim. While not able to suit up for the stars and stripes yet, he is the latest in the line of German-Americans looking to play for Uncle Sam.
While not a defender by trade, one would assume his skills as a midfielder would translate to him being willing to go forward from the back.
Due to his FIFA allegiance switch still being processed, he is not the answer right now, but he is definitely one for the future.
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The most exciting of the German-Americans, Timmy is currently the popular choice to take over at right-back for the national team. The 21-year-old who plies his trade for FC Nuremburg seems destined to take over for elder statesmen Steve Cherundolo when he decides to hang up his boots.
Despite that, Chandler started on the left side against Belgium and played relatively well. While the depth at right is not that deep, a move to left-back could be in the cards as long as Cherundolo's legs hold out.
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The forgotten man of the national team, Beasley has recently found a new home in Mexico with Puebla. A fixture on the wings in his heyday, Beasley has bounced around Europe a bit before Puebla.
His most notable low point was last year with Hannover 96, where he only featured in 4 matches. He has played left-back before with the national team but with little success. But with Kilsmann's need for the full-backs to get forward, the Beasley to left-back experiment might be coming back around.
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Though currently injured, Lichaj is a promising young full-back who currently plays for Aston Villa. Called up for the 2011 Gold Cup in June, Lichaj has shown promise over the years in Europe—most recently on loan at Leeds in the Championship.
His versatility to play either left- or right-back will definitely warrant a call-up when he recovers from his hip injury. He could be the answer at left back.
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Saving the best for last. Bocanegra is currently the best option for the national team at left-back and has started there before in big games for the U.S.
But due to the fall of both Jay Demerit and Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos is forced back to the middle of the defense. Until young centre-backs such as Tim Ream and Perry Kitchen show they are ready to step up to the next level, a move out wide is not in the cards for Bocanegra.
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While none of these options may ever be as good as the man to the left, they are the best options available to the team right now.
All of them have their pros and cons, but one thing is sure: If the left-back problem is not sorted out, taking the next step in the 4-3-3 will be a challenge.