Defensive Worries Shift to Center Back for the USMNT
During the entire World Cup qualifying tournament, the talk was about the outside backs in the defensive back line for the USMNT. DaMarcus Beasley and Brad Evans were playing out of place but doing a good enough job. The thought was that the center backs were figured out with Omar Gonzalez pairing with Matt Besler. However, the play of Gonzalez and the depth shown at outside back turned the focus to center back issues.
One of the most evident issues with Gonzalez is that his first touch is not great. The ball is often pushed too far to give Gonzalez time to play the right pass or he just gives it away the opposition. On several occasions last night, Gonzalez had to make a lunging move to get the ball from a defender after he had played the ball too far into space. His control of aerial passes is often awkward and clumsy.
Gonzalez is becoming known for struggling to stay with opponents on set pieces. Some may say there was a breakdown of communication on Mexico’s first goal last night as he and Kyle Beckerman did not execute on a pick play. However, Beckerman gave Gonzalez room to get under the pick, much like in basketball. Regardless of the legality of the play, Gonzalez did not show enough fight. It is unclear whether Beckerman yelled out what was coming.
Gonzalez simply fell asleep on the second goal. Unfortunately this is not the first time as he has come under scrutiny from his own keepers when he failed to track back and stop second-chance opportunities. Alan Pulido had a simple tap in at the far post when Gonzalez lost his marking. The second half play by the central defender showed a lack of will.
It is not to say the players on the wings have no flaws. They all have them, but we know what we are going to see. Beasley and Fabian Johnson have pace and play a little bit more forward. Michael Parkhurst isn’t going to play in a lot of crosses, but he is going to wait it out and make the smart pass. Parkhurst seems to always remain calm. Even Tony Beltran‘s play improved dramatically after the 15th minute mark last night.
After the match Jurgen Klinsmann stuck by Gonzalez, although reluctantly, by saying it is too early to name a starting center back pairing for Brazil. If Gonzalez continues to show this form then Clarence Goodson or Geoff Cameron come back into play as a starter with Besler and the uncertainty level continues to rise. If you are looking for the area that needs to be addressed on the back line, it is now center back.