Listen, I'm hopeful and optimistic about the regime of Jurgen Klinsmann with the USMNT. Though I was listening to an author this morning talking about how living in hope can be a horrible thing, and to someone who has lived in hope for a long time that something definite is a welcome break. Why all of this rambling? Jurgen has come in to shake up the USMNT establishment, though of course not too much. Baby steps, if you will. But even baby steps represents a tectonic shift of sorts for the USMNT, long a producer of hard-running, mediocre-quality teams. Klinsmann feels there are plenty of hidden gems of creative talent laying about in the US just waiting to be paired with this proven tenacity, and that's true. To that end, he's kept some of the mainstays we've seen from the US team (Howard, Donovan, Dempsey, Bocanegra) and started throwing a few wrinkles in, particularly in the midfield and defense. Some have been inspired choices (Torres, Chandler - though at RB) and some....well, some have fallen flat, in my humble opinion. At 0-1-2 we need results. And so I ask: if we're trying something new, let's be open to some other options.
I realize Klinsmann wants to mine the ethnic groups playing in the US and I applaud that because I play against some of these teams and the kids (by the way, a "kid" qualifies as anyone under 30. Don't ask.) are a beautiful blend of fitness and finesse. They're just as likely to be a flat-track bully but on their next run gently chip it over or under you. So I get that. That being said, there are several players who clearly aren't ready for prime-time (or past their time) that have been exposed:
Edgar Castillo - I like the kid and he's got a good pedigree, particularly his years spend playing at different clubs in the FMF. He has the talent, he just doesn't seem able to put it together, or at least not right now. His defense is facepalm-worthy, and while he sometimes gets forward, its not of a quality that offsets his deficiencies.
Steve Cherundolo - With Chandler showing pretty good defense and pace on the right, Cherundolo needs to be rested or played sparingly. At 32 he ain't getting any younger and injuries aren't helping either.
So, Michael, why is it that you seem to be focusing on the LB/CB position? Well what do you know, I guess I am, huh. I humbly proffer that perhaps the key to what ails the USMNT defensively comes from the Naranja (see Jurgi, I am thinking of you): Corey Ashe and Geoff Cameron.
Whoa, really? Yes, really.
I know I know, at this point I sound like a convert because I never was big on Ashe. Defensively he was clueless and oftentimes he needed to be reminded that he was playing LB and not midfielder. Happens to me all the time. But now...well now, Ashe is actually a pretty solid defender. Sure, he's smaller and will get out-muscled by larger wings but he's smart enough now to know how to play them. And offensively, he will definitely be in the mix making a blistering run down the wing and putting in a cross, which is what the USMNT sorely lacks on the left. I never thought I'd actually be saying that but I think it holds true: Ashe deserves a call-up for the LB spot. I know it seemed odd that he was chosen as an All-Star for his play there, but we're seeing it being justified more and more. And again, what are the other options: Castillo & Cerundelo. Uh-huh.
As for Cameron, I don't think I need to elaborate as much. He made his name here as an All-Star at CB. I realize he's been part of a social experiment this year, but the last friendly against Monterrey should've reminded everyone of what he can do there. Right now for the US, the other CB spot not held down by Bocanegra is fairly anonymous and typically a bulls-eye for opposing forwards. In pairing Cameron and Bocanegra we'd have two smart, big but agile defenders who can get forward but can still get back quick enough to defend. Pair that with an impressive RB in Chandler and finally a LB who contributes (Ashe) and I think our defense becomes stout without being stodgy.
See Jurgi? Creativity is hidden all over this country.
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