[USA CONFIDENTIAL] Among the many intriguing aspects of the 22-man squad named by Coach Juergen Klinsmann is a notable component of left-sided players, including veteran DaMarcus Beasley and once-capped Edgar Castillo. ... Remember those halcyon days when the U.S. national team seemed to have a continuous conveyor belt of left-sided players?
Jeff Agoos, David Regis, Greg Vanney, Bobby Convey, Beasley, Preki and Eddie Lewis, just to name a few. Agoos, Regis and Vanney played in the back, Convey and Beasley were slashing wingers, Preki's touches dropped befuddled defenders on their butts, and Lewis could bend the ball -- if not like Beckham -- pretty darn well. Their common characteristic was a left foot the opponent had to be wary of.
Nowadays, the most glaring holes of the team are left mid and left back, and that’s one good reason that Klinsmann has named Beasley and Edgar Castillo to the 22-man U.S. squad for the friendly against Mexico Wednesday. While captain Carlos Bocanegra may again wind up playing left back by default, Klinsmann obviously wants options on that side further up the field.
Heath Pearce has played both outside back positions as well as center back and defensive mid during his professional career; a pure lefty he’s not. Neither is Jose Torres, who has spent much of his time at Pachuca in a left-central midfield role.
The lack of a true lefty – aside from Bocanegra -- has plagued the U.S. and limited its attacking options, especially on corner kicks, which are normally right-sided deliveries by Landon Donovan, the nominal first choice at left mid if Clint Dempsey plays on the right or up top. The return to the team of Freddy Adu gives the U.S. a player capable of hitting set plays with his left foot, but during his national-team career he hasn’t shown a preference for the left wing.
Dempsey played a lot of left mid last season for Fulham; former coach Mark Hughes gave him considerable license to work inside onto his right foot. He is not in the squad for the Mexico game, and neither is Alejandro Bedoya, who is left-sided but has spent much of his club career for Swedish club Orebro on the right flank. Two other midfielders not selected, Benny Feilhaber and Stuart Holden, are not left-footed yet have seen time on that flank in their careers. Also excluded is Jonathan Bornstein, who was converted to left back in college and has played most of his pro career as a defender.
A strong left-sided midfielder, regardless of his particular strengths, pulls opponents to that side and creates space across the field. He also creates additional angles from which to launch runs, trigger combinations, and serve balls behind the defenders and beyond the goalkeeper.
In announcing his squad, Klinsmann stated an intent to increase competition at as many positions as possible. He also wants survival of the fittest specifically on the left side, which could be good news for Brad Davis and a few others not called upon this time.