Photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
Jurgen Klinsmann famously said back in summer 2012 that anybody can play left back.
We will soon see just how true those words were.
The U.S. Men’s National Team will head into the World Cup this summer not short on options at left back, a position that has long troubled the Americans. DaMarcus Beasley, Fabian Johnson, and Edgar Castillo are just some of the players Klinsmann will have at his disposal, but the tricky part will be in finding which one is best suited to take on the tough opposition the U.S. will face in Group G.
Whether it is a veteran like Beasley who has experience playing in three World Cups or someone like Johnson who can pin the opposition deeper in their half on a more consistent basis, Klinsmann needs to decide which player will give the Americans back line a strong presence on the left flank. The U.S. head coach might have more options than were available in tournaments past, but that does not mean it will be any easier in determining who should be the starter.
Here is a closer look at the current group of left backs that Klinsmann will have to choose from:
A veteran with three World Cups under his belt, Beasley has the experience that no other left back in the pool can offer. The soon-to-be 32-year-old Beasley also started at left back for much of the qualifying campaign, continues to see time at that position regularly with Puebla and his impact on the U.S. locker room is something that Klinsmann raves about. All that said, Beasley is not a natural left back by trade and he only recently started logging heavy minutes there. That makes starting him there in a World Cup a bit of a gamble, even if it is one that Beasley is up for.
It was not long ago that Johnson seemed like the player most likely to start at left back for the U.S. at the World Cup. Things have changed, however, as the 26-year-old Johnson has seen more time at right back in recent months with Hoffenheim. What bodes well for him is that he is an ambidextrous, dynamic weapon who can jump into the attack with regularity – something Klinsmann asks of his fullbacks – and that might be needed to help relieve some pressure against the quality wide attackers the U.S. will face in the group stage. Johnson could also be looked at as a wide midfielder, but it looks as if he might be needed more in defense.
Admittedly not the best defender, Castillo is an option mainly due to his ability to get forward. Castillo, 27, is earning heavy minutes at left back with Club Tijuana, making him the only other player aside from Beasley to be able to make that claim currently. Klinsmann has shown with his selections in the past that he likes what Castillo brings to the table regardless of his defensive shortcomings, and Castillo will be hoping that is the case again as he tries to play in his first World Cup.
Parkhurst is not a natural left back and he does not sniff any minutes there with the Columbus Crew, but he has played decently at the position in a pinch for the U.S. in recent times. The 30-year-old Parkhurst is more of a stay-at-home defender than the options listed, but he did not look overwhelmed playing at left back earlier this year in friendlies vs. South Korea and Mexico. That might just be enough to convince Klinsmann that the veteran defender with hopes of playing in his first World Cup is worth taking to Brazil as a depth option.
Chandler, 24, only recently returned to action for FC Nurnberg from a knee injury, but he has shown in the past that he is a more than suitable option at left back. Whether he is healthy enough to be considered by Klinsmann for the upcoming pre-World Cup camp is not yet known, but Chandler’s speed, technical ability and crossing make him an interesting option, even if it is only as a reserve.
What do you think of Klinsmann’s current options at left back? Who should be the starter at the World Cup? Think there is enough depth at this position?
Share your thoughts below.