Friday, August 4, 2017

The Heart of Defense

First things first, as a periodic reminder (or alert for NSC newcomers), this exercise is not a guess at or prediction of Bruce Arena's USMNT depth chart. It is purely based on my preferences, with the obvious "pardon me" qualifier that I do not get to witness/direct training sessions.

Like we did with the wingbacks, let's tackle both of these center back slots in one post. Just to change things up for kicks (otherwise known as a more dramatic reveal), I'll start with the left side...

John Anthony Brooks
Matt Besler
Ike Opara

On call: Tim Ream

This one is pretty cut and dry... except for the fact that Opara keeps being ignored for some reason I can't comprehend. I suspect his performance ceiling at this level is even higher than Besler's, but must place his Sporting KC back line mate higher for no other reason than we've never been able to see his crazy athleticism at work in a US shirt.

Meanwhile, Brooks needs to make a strong start with Wolfsburg and transfer it to his next US appearances to set our minds at ease. He definitely struggled in some of his most recent outings for both club and country. Ream is a safe pick to have in frame, especially if the mood for a 3-5-2 hits again.

And on to the right side..

Geoff Cameron
Omar Gonzalez
Matt Miazga

Like Miazga, bears watching: Walker Zimmerman
Break glass in case of veteran hand emergency: Jonathan Spector

Mmmmyup. Weighing all the opportunity costs, I have stationed Cameron in the middle of defense. That doesn't mean I can't see any possible occasion to slide him into defensive midfield, but organizational skills and thrust moving the ball up the middle puts him here (at least for now).

Gonzalez is also a worthy starter at this post, and has very positive World Cup experience here, but the crowding of our central midfield pool (and Cameron's aforementioned high-level attributes) bites him in the butt.

Miazga is for now an unsure #3 at this position, but he can certainly solidify it with Europa League entrants Vitesse this coming season. It's a bummer we weren't able to see more of the seasoned, versatile Spector (whose routinely lousy Orlando City partners often make for a hard club play judgment) and Zimmerman as the year has unfolded.

- Greg Seltzer


Patrick said...

I'd have Ream over Besler. Besler seems to get lost when things break down. He will boot the ball randomly out of the penalty area. But when scrambling, his head disengages. He does well not to have to scramble, but that is easier against Jamaica or MLS opponents than WC opponents.

Have to be amazed but I totally agree with the fact the name "Hedges" is not anywhere in the post. I haven't gone back to look at the last clipboard but he was probably in there. Reigning "MLS Defender of the Year" and all. Don't we have to suspect all CBs that spend a lot of time in MLS and maybe look good for that league? You would think a league that spends all its money on attack would mean that defenders that look good would be good. Hedges couldn't handle Martinique...

It was just the MLS All-Star Game, but Hedges was again easily beaten and/or turned or suckered into a foul. The guy that actually looked like he could hang with Marcelo, Bale, etc. (hang as in gets some last ditch challenges in that saved goals) was Parkhurst. He has been just as good in MLS as anyone, maybe he should get a look. Certainly, over Zimmerman or Opara (that Porter Olympic team really turned out badly).

Unknown said...

I really lived parkhurst as an MNT player, but having been out of the picture for so long, and now into the final year of the cycle, i dont think hes gonna get another look

Unknown said...


dwc414141 said...

Hedges deserved a shot based upon his play in MLS. He seems to be one of those guys that cannot play at the international level. Its puzzling when players that couldn't even make an MLS roster can blow one of the league's top defenders off the field. I hope he continues to play well in MLS and has a great career. Besler is a decent back-up but he definitely didn't look great in the Gold Cup and I would be worried lining him up against world-class attacking players at this point. Perhaps it was fitness or just a slump, I'm not ready to write him off yet.

I'd like to see more Miazga with the MNT. I don't think I'm ready to throw him into an important WCQ yet, but I'd like to see how he'd perform with some of the 1st team defenders against good competition.

I agree with Patrick, that Parkhurst is working back into the picture.

Paul Poenicke said...

Hope to see Parkhurst and Spector in friendlies, to see their relative strengths as backups. Greg, glad you came around on Cameron. Like you, I see his value best in defense. Don't break up a decent pair--Brooks and Cameron--unless the squad really needs Cameron in midfield.

FiveTwo said...

I like Zimmerman, he has a little fire and intensity that we don't get from Brooks, Beslar or Gonzalez. We will see how he responds to injury, but I think its Miazga vs. Zimmerman for Cameron's eventual replacement.