With just one friendly match left before the U.S. Men’s National Team heads to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, the team is running out of time to fix some of the problems that are plague them heading into the tournament. The biggest issue facing the USMNT heading into the World Cup is its back four, which is an issue they definitely have to figure out before they face the Group of Death in Ghana, Portugal, and Germany.
The first issue with the back four is Jurgen Klinsmann settling on a starting lineup. The first two games of the send off series have seen a variety of combinations used along the back line, with mixed results. The only spot that appears to be penciled in is Fabian Johnson at right back, as he has started both games and scored a goal against Turkey, while backup DeAndre Yedlin isn’t ready to play 90 minutes of defense against Ghana, Portugal, and Germany, despite having plenty of talent and athleticism.
At the two center back positions, Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler have started the past two games, although they have been far from perfect, due in part to a lack of experience playing with one another. Throughout much of qualifying, Besler and Omar Gonzalez have teamed up at center back, while John Brooks is still an option after a strong performance in the second half against Turkey, although his inexperience in international competition is something to consider. In the end, Cameron and Besler is the most likely center back combination, and if Klinsmann believes that to be true he needs to give those two players as much time playing together as possible before the start of the World Cup.
At left back there is still a lingering question between DaMarcus Beasley and Timothy Chandler, with Chandler seeing a majority of the time there during the past two matches. However, while Chandler has better physical tools than Beasley at this point in his career, Chandler has had more than a few shaky moments defensively over the last two games, and with Beasley being the regular left back for over a year, he may be the best choice. Beasley would give the U.S. back four a little more continuity, as well as the experience on the field of a player that’s playing in his fourth World Cup.
Klinsmann needs to figure out who he wants to start along the back four as soon as possible, as he needs to give those four players a full 90 minutes playing together in the upcoming friendly against Nigeria, as well as a closed-door scrimmage against Belgium on June 12 after the team travels to Brazil. More experience playing together is the only reasonable way the American back four can improve from what we’ve seen in recent matches.
At this point, picking a back four and giving them as much experience playing together as possible is better than continuing to experiment with different variations and trying to find the best four individual defenders. With the USMNT about to face a tremendous challenge defensively, cohesion may be more important than pure talent to prevent the U.S. from getting beat due to mental errors and lapses in communication. To make that happen, Klinsmann needs to pick his back four before the USMNT gets on the plane to Brazil.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him on Google.