March 2010

Kickin’ Around The LB Dilemma

Was letting Joey Porter go a good idea? Is Karlos Dansby really the upgrade the team needs and expects him to be? Wait, this post isn’t actually about Miami Dolphins linebackers, what am I doing? Let’s try starting this again.

Left back.

It’s that time again, Yanks fans. Time to circle back after tabling the issue and brainstorm to find dynamic solutions, lower risk, and increase productivity at this position. That’s corporate jargon for, “Bornstein’s out, who’s starting back there?”

This blog along with most of the soccer world has been just astute enough to point out that while the US has multiple capable right backs, the National Team continues to reach at left back. But maybe now that Bornstein’s finally been exposed enough to take his leave of the starting lineup and accept a meaningful seat on the bench in South Africa, the USMNT can finally cement its back four for the World Cup.

Here are the players I see as being our options:

RB: Cherundolo, Spector

CB: Onyewu, DeMerit

CB: Bocanegra, DeMerit

LB: Bocanegra, Spector, Pearce

First off, Boca is the captain, and he’s going to be on the field. If you’re a Boca hater, get used to it, and stop hating Beckham, Brad Pitt and The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels while you’re at it. The question becomes – does Carlos start at left back like he does for his club or at center back like he usually does for his country? I think two guys that aren’t Bocanegra made this decision for him: Jay DeMerit and Jonathan Spector.

Jay is a better CB than Jon is an LB. I’m a West Ham fan and as such I get to watch “my boy” Jon Spector play on a regular basis. No need to brace for an about face or any big time Spec bashing, he’s a good player, just not a natural left back. He belongs on the right where he’s more comfortable; I’ve seen plenty of matches where he seems to be having a solid game at LB only to lose his mark at the wrong time and concede the dangerous cross. He’s also much better offensively on the right, and his service into the box could be very important to the Yanks in the World Cup.

Meanwhile Jay DeMerit continues to do what can only be verbalized with the word “grind” in central defense. Yes he makes positioning mistakes from time to time, but he usually makes up for it with physicality… basically he gets into an MMA matchup with half of the opposing players. Additionally he proved in the Confed Cup that he can partner effectively with Gooch (be healthy now!).

That slots Gooch and DeMerit in at the CBs with Bocanegra on the left flank. Conventional US fan wisdom would dictate that Cherundolo starts at right back, but what-have-you-done-for-me-lately naysayers might argue that Spector’s made a case to start out there. If Stevie comes back in good form and is the player we saw two years ago I’m in favor of the Hanover man, if not I go Spector. Either way, it’s a better problem to have than, “Do we start Bornstein or Pearce at left back?”

Jon Levy is a senior writer and managing editor for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at or @TYAC_Jon.

Jon Levy

  • Dan

    Boca at left back is more of a sure thing than Spector at right back. Dolo will be making a case for himself come the WC, rest assured.

  • Tim

    Pearce would be the better option at LB over Bornstein anyway, even if he does come off the bench. Since he left Germany and signed with FC Dallas, his defensive play helped the Hoops win their last 4 out of 5 games and almost make an unbelievable run to the playoffs.

  • Great Gooch video, Jon! I really hope his health isn’t a concern this summer. You think he’ll be OK?

  • I think he will, but as most physical therapists will tell you, that’s up to him.