World Cup: why USMNT’s defense is the main problem

The back four of the US Men’s National soccer team has been the main concern throughout training camp and leading up to the 2014 World Cup Brazil. It will continue to be a huge problem if Jürgen Klinsmann does not find a steady back line to battle in the World Cup. The back four for the USMNT need to be ready to face Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, the quick forwards of Ghana, and big forwards of Germany. It will not be an easy task, but the USMNT can put together a back four to get through the group stage.

The only player of the American defense that has been consistent is Tim Howard. Howard plays goalie for Everton in the English Primer League and has been the USMNT keeper since 2002. Howard tends to keep the USMNT in many games with his spectacular goalkeeping, but sometimes the Americans rely too heavily on him. Howard has been doing more than he needs to because of the spotty play from the defense.

The US defense has very little depth, but some of the players do have great potential.

One player that is guaranteed to start at left back in the World Cup is DaMarcus Beasley. Beasley used to play in the midfield, but Klinsmann has converted him to a defender. He sparks the potential to make runs forward and swing balls into the box. He is a better player going forward than he is defending, but is not technical enough to mark the best forwards in the world. If Beasley does not perform well in the three-game send-off series, Fabian Johnson can step in as a left back.

The center backs have also been somewhat solidified. Pairing Omar Gonzalez with Matt Besler has been the ongoing idea. The one advantage these center backs have is their size. They are good in the air and can dominate the taller forwards of Germany. The problem is they are not fast enough to run with the best. If Besler and Gonzalez do not communicate with each other and the center midfielders, every forward could have a field day going to goal. They need to know how to play center back and not get caught flat or give up breakaways.

Brad Evans is the probable starter at right back for the USMNT. Like Beasley, Evans normally plays in the midfield, but can also dominate in the back line. He also has the ability to join the offensive attack because that is what he is used to doing. Geoff Cameron also has a chance to play right back for the USMNT.

The USMNT has some good players to dominate the back four, but they never play as a whole unit. It was easily seen in the friendly against Mexico. The back four are often caught flat with no communication, which allows forwards to run down their throat and get breakaway opportunities. This is how the US relies too much on Howard. The USMNT defense also has no concept of communication. As seen in the friendly against Mexico, a Mexican player was wide open on the back post on a corner. Two American players did not communicate and Mexico netted a goal.

To fix the USMNT’s defensive problems, they need to go back to the basics. They need to play connected and move as a unit both up and down the field, but also move well left to right. They also need to communicate in order to pass players on and talk to the rest of their teammates. These are easy solutions, but it will also make the USMNT back four harder to beat and easier for the USMNT to win in their group stage.