United States vs. Mexico Preview - Klinsmann's Defensive Conundrum

Miguel Tovar

What was supposed to be a simple friendly has now turned into a big headache for Jurgen Klinsmann, who will have to dig deep into his player pool for a starting defender with three players out for various reasons.

When the United States announced their roster last week for today's friendly vs. Mexico, the defensive situation seemed the most easy to figure out.

DaMarcus Beasley, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler and Brad Evans, four players who featured so prominently in qualifying, would be the starting backline. Then came the injury to Evans, who was replaced in the squad by Real Salt Lake's Tony Beltran and the curious case of Liga MX side Puebla, club side of Beasley and Michael Orozco.

Both players were not released by the club team for the match, which doesn't fall under a FIFA international day. But it was assumed that all players not involved in the CONCACAF Champions League would be available for selection. The US did not call up their Tijuana based players in Herculez Gomez, Edgar Castillo and Joe Corona out of respect for Tijuana's match with Cruz Azul yesterday (a 1-0 home win in the first leg of the CCL semis).

That leaves Jurgen Klinsmann shorthanded with only 6 total defenders on the squad and no true left back. Michael Parkhurst has featured their in the past but is severely limited in his ability to get forward and overlap on his weaker foot. The only other potential solution, perhaps in an emergency situation due to injury, would be to let Brad Evans man the spot. The Houston Dyanmo midfielder would not be an ideal fit but Beasley and Fabian Johnson, the two likely candidates for left back in Brazil, both have a lot of midfield experience.

Left back aside, Klinsmann is also without his starting right back, and the two choices on the roster offer two very different options. Tony Beltran is a known commodity and a solid player, a 2013 MLS All-Star and member of the 2013 Gold Cup winning squad in which he made one start during the tournament. He'd bring a veteran presence that would be defense first but has the ability to get forward and support the attack.

DeAndre Yedlin, the Seattle Sounders budding superstar, is the opposite. More attack first from the right back position, he has the speed and creativity to wreak havoc on opposing defenses with the ball at his feet. He's been called into camp twice this year already and while he and Beltran are longshots for Brazil, Yedlin at least is seen as a player for the future.

Now, it's well known my doubts about Yedlin, I don't think he's a good enough defender at the next level, yet. And it's not just based on two short appearances in the MLS All-Star game and the friendly against South Korea and he was less than impressive. He struggles to defend 1-on-1 in space with the attacker coming at him but does really well tracking runs and doing other little things defensively in MLS games. Klinsmann might want to give Yedlin the start just to see what he can do on the big stage, and as much as I think Yedlin is more suited to back up Graham Zusi on the right wing, I'm also interested to see what the kid can do from the start of the game, not just 10 minutes off the bench.

Klinsmann also has to find the defensive midfield partner for Michael Bradley. With usual partner Jermaine Jones still in Europe, that job will fall to either Maurice Edu or Kyle Beckerman. Edu has started 2014 very well with the Philadelphia Union and has earned his way back into the conversation for Brazil as an extra holding midfielder and emergency center back. Beckerman defense first style would allow Bradley to roam forward more, ideal for the US attack but Beckerman's steady presence is also a known commodity and it will be interesting to see how long Edu gets to make an impression, or if he starts outright.

The rest of the lineup is fairly predictable. Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Zusi will all start in some order in the attacking midfield roles with Eddie Johnson getting the start up top and perhaps Chris Wondolowski getting the final 30 minutes or so. The US will be short on subs, with only a 17 available outfield players so expect to see pretty much everyone play in this one.

Julian Green and Davis are available on the wings as well as Clarence Goodson in the central defense. Luis Gil will have a chance to make an impact at some point but like Yedlin he is one for the future. Backup keepers Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson likely won't have to see action barring an injury to Nick Rimando.

The US and Mexico will kickoff from University of Phoenix Stadium in Phoenix, AZ at 11PM EST on ESPN.

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