With their recent string of success in World Cup Qualifying, some of the questions facing the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team are starting to be answered, including the questions along the backline. After four straight games and four straight wins, with Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler paired up together, is it possible the national team has found it’s central back duo of the future?
The skill sets that Gonzalez and Besler possess complement one another well. Gonzalez provides a physical presence that’s both intimidating to opponents and capable of shutting down powerful strikers. Meanwhile, Besler has the speed to keep up with smaller and quicker forwards, as well as help recover when other defenders make mistakes. That combination of skills gives the tandem of Gonzalez and Besler potential to lead the U.S. backline in the future.
But despite helping the U.S. produce two clean sheets over the past four games, Gonzalez and Besler have been far from perfect, as the U.S. has allowed four goals over that span while facing teams that are far below the talent level offensively that the U.S. will face in the World Cup next summer. There’s no doubt that Gonzalez and Besler will be able to carry the Americans throughout the rest of qualifying, and that they will be able to get the U.S. to the 2014 World Cup, but there’s far less certainty that they’ll be able to play to the level necessary to be successful in the World Cup next summer.
The issue that Gonzalez and Besler have is a lack of experience. Neither has a lot of international caps, and both have yet to be truly challenged against top-not international competition, which makes it far too early to anoint them the central back duo of the future for the U.S.
Despite helping the U.S. to 10 points in their last four qualifying games, there is still a lot for Gonzalez and Besler to prove, both as individuals and collectively, until they an be considered the central back duo of the future for the U.S. national team.
That being said, Gonzalez and Besler are in good shape to solidify themselves as regulars on the U.S. backline. With Geoff Cameron finding a new home for the national team in central midfield, there are a limited number of players with a realistic chance of displacing either Gonzalez or Besler. Unless veterans like Carlos Bocanegra or Oguchi Onyewu can make an unlikely comeback to the national team in time for the World Cup, only Clarence Goodson has a reasonable opportunity to take over a starting spot in central defense.
While both Gonzalez and Besler have plenty left to prove before they can be considered locks to be the starting central defenders next summer, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if they ended up being the long-term starters in central defense for the U.S. Both have a lot of talent and a lot of room for improvement. They are also young enough to potentially play in multiple World Cups together, which would give the U.S. great continuity in the back for years to come. It’s still too early to say with certainty that Gonzalez and Besler are the future central defenders for the U.S., but right now it’s looking like a strong possibility.