Here at The Yanks Are Coming we write a lot about the harsh realities of small sample size inherent in the game at national team level. So few matches, so much riding on each one, and hardly any opportunities to evaluate without consequences.
That’s why we’re including notes made prior to the most triumphant month of June for the USMNT as we embark on our latest series. It’s our new TYAC USMNT Depth Chart Series, and it’s a little like time travel, minus the DeLorean and the historically cool destinations (May 2013 wasn’t all that interesting was it?). Hopefully the contrast in our depth charts between May and present day will speak to how big a difference five matches can make in the world of international soccer.
Please note we made these valuations based on who we would start at each position given the current player pool, not who we think Jurgen Klinsmann would start. Otherwise we’d have Danny Williams ranked number one at each position. Long term absentees Landon Donovan and Stuart Holden have been left off these lists, but thankfully they’ve both been included on the Gold Cup roster. We’ve also included the current club for each player in the July section.
Let’s start with the center back position…
MAY 2013 CB DEPTH CHART AND NOTES:
CB: Omar Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron, Carlos Bocanegra, Clarence Goodson, Matt Besler, Michael Parkhurst, Maurice Edu, Oguchi Onyewu, Michael Orozco Fiscal
Omar Gonzalez has six caps, and in those six caps he’s validated every damn thing said about him by the vocal throngs of the “Omar for USMNT” crowd. Two of these CB’s will start in any given match, and Omar has shown the ability to work well with Cameron, Goodson, and Besler. He also plays central defender full time for his club, which gives him a slight leg up on his likely partner in defense, Geoff Cameron, who plays right back for Stoke City.
JULY 2013 CB DEPTH CHART AND NOTES:
CB: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez, (LA Galaxy) Geoff Cameron* (Stoke City, Barclays Premier League), Carlos Bocanegra (Chivas USA), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Michael Parkhurst (FC Augsburg, Bundesliga), Maurice Edu (Stoke City, Barclays Premier League), Oguchi Onyewu (Malaga, La Liga, Spain), Michael Orozco Fiscal (Puebla, Mexico)
What a difference a month just made for Matt Besler. Going into the Belgium match he was a bench player who happened to have one glorious shining moment at the Azteca, pairing with Gonzo for ninety plus to blank Mexico in a hugely important World Cup Qualifier. Now he’s lookin’ and playin’ like the Real Deal Holyfield for four matches in a row. Besler made one of his only mistakes in June when he uncharacteristically passed the ball to a Honduran player deep in his own zone, nearly setting up an equalizer. Omar did the same thing in that match, but his decent run form over the last five matches was definitely spotted with moments like that. A few careless and nervy Gonzalez moments aside, it’s time for USMNT supporters to embrace the top tandem at center half. It looks like the Omar and Besler partnership is here to stay.
As for the rest of this group, we speculated at TYAC that Geoff Cameron was brought into that camp to play in the center of defense– and we weren’t the only publication to do that. In fact, that was a consistent and common thread. So he did and played it well, right? No- of course not- but you know the rest– shined as a fill-in against Panama at defensive midfielder– put in a good, short shift against Honduras, and appears to be Jurgen Klinsmann’s version of duct tape– he fills in and fixes whatever is broken– all while garnering heaps of praise from soccer writers across the country. Cameron is too valuable to be slotted in one area– hence the asterisk attached to his name above.
Carlos Bocanegra was omitted from the Gold Cup group to “find a club”, and he found one, even if it is Chivas USA. Chivas is, at present time, the MLS equivalent to a minimum-security prison, but who knows, with Bocanegra on board playing the role of Andy Dufresne, maybe they’ll play just well enough to get invited to the top of the roof for a cold beer every now and then. Either way, getting consistent minutes at a high level was Bocanegra’s best chance at an international return, and in keeping with the Shawshank metaphor– it’s time for him to “get busy living or get busy dying” as a professional who aspires to play in Brazil.
Clarence Goodson is also joining MLS. Still relatively young, he has a great amount of defensive quality, particularly on set pieces, and will have a decent chance of being on Klinsmann’s final roster for Brazil, if only barely. Michael Parkhurst is an interesting case. Klinsmann felt him important enough to bring along for the early matches of the summer, but he didn’t see the field in the qualifiers and is joining the Gold Cup team with no real guarantee of a starting spot. The Gold Cup is a crucial tournament for Parkhurst, who is steady eddie but only that– he’s not particularly adept at anything. He is a “depth player”, epitomized, until he proves otherwise. In a way, that’s disappointing, because he was excellent for the Olympic Team in Beijing in 2008 and many writers felt his ceiling was high. Chances are that absent a great Gold Cup, he’ll be lost in the mix for the Brazil plane, especially if Tim Chandler or Steve Cherundolo, or both, factor into Klinsmann’s plans.
Finally, Michael Orozco-Fiscal, hero of the Azteca and villain of Beijing, makes this list and is another player who needs a huge Gold Cup to have any prayer of factoring into Klinsmann’s 23 man roster for Brazil. Oguchi Onyewu joins Orozco-Fiscal on the Gold Cup roster, and we have him slated just past Orozco-Fiscal only because if Gooch is right– his physical tools and veteran instincts could really help the team down the stretch in qualifying, not just this summer.
And just for fun, on to the goalkeepers…
MAY 2013 GK DEPTH CHART AND NOTES:
GK: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando, Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid
Brad Guzan had two good performances (against Costa Rica in the snow, and Mexico at Azteca) that should make fans of the Yanks feel good about depth at the position. He’s also making a case that he should be the guy after Tim Howard retires. I won’t argue with that. That said, Tim Howard is healthy again, and when he’s healthy, he’s the starter. No questions asked.
JULY 2013 GK DEPTH CHART AND NOTES:
GK: Tim Howard (Everton, Barclays Premier League), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, Barclays Premier League), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Bill Hamid (DC United)
Like I said, this one was just for fun. No change to our goalkeeper depth chart. Tim Howard is still the man in net, and Brad Guzan wasn’t great against Belgium, but he wasn’t bad enough to get jumped for having an off day against world class opposition. Rimando, Johnson, and Hamid are all on the Gold Cup roster, so we might get some movement at the three-through-five spots soon.
The Gold Cup is important in this respect, too, especially as Howard continues to battle father time. As Howard gets older, he gets more vulnerable on shots from distance. Just look at how teams have attacked him and you’ll see something of what we mean. His distributions are still terrific and his positioning is still strong, but he isn’t getting better as the years go by. Guzan has a stronghold on the two spot– but seeing the young kids battle at the Gold Cup is crucial for a team that will be holding open auditions for a # 2 in the next cycle.
That’s it for part one of TYAC USMNT Depth Chart Series; join us next time when we might talk a bunch of crap about your favorite wing defenders and try to convince Frankie Hejduk to come out of retirement.
Oh and don’t forget to argue with us on Twitter, @YanksAreComing, @TYAC_Jon and @nwb_USMNT. Now go annoy your friends about the awesome US Soccer depth chart series you just started reading.
Jon Levy is Co-Founder of The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at @TYAC_Jon.