[USA MEN] The absence of Clint Dempsey and other MLS regulars from the team Jurgen Klinsmann called in for Wednesday's U.S. game against Bosnia is easy to explain.
Why have them make the long trek to Sarajevo for a friendly with lots of qualifiers and MLS games ahead of them this fall? And why not just give a chance to some of the European-based players?
The presence then of Dempsey's new Seattle teammate, Brad Evans, says a lot about how much Klinsmann prizes his contributions at right back and how important Wednesday's test is for the Sounders captain.
Evans will get a chance to permanently rip off the "fill-in" tag at right back, but he'll have his hands full Wednesday against Lazio left winger Senad Lulic, the liveliest player he'll have faced since taking over at right back in June.
No position poses more problems for Klinsmann in the short term than right back, where his top choices at the beginning of the year are nowhere to be found.
Steve Cherundolo and Timmy Chandler were 1 and 1A on the U.S. depth as the year began, but knee problems have kept the 34-year-old Cherundolo out of the U.S. lineup all year, and Chandler's only appearance came in the 2-1 loss at Honduras to open the Hexagonal -- a very poor performance from the reluctant traveler that may be his last for a long time. Klinsmann said on Tuesday other players have moved ahead of him on the depth chart.
Klinsmann has started six different players at right back in the 18 competitive matches of his tenure:
U.S. Right Backs (2012):
Cherundolo (1)Antigua & Barbuda 3-1 (WCQ)
Cherundolo (2)@Guatemala 1-1 (WCQ)
Parkhurst (1)@Jamaica 1-2 (WCQ)
Cherundolo (3)Jamaica 1-0 (WCQ)
Cherundolo (4)@Antigua & Barbuda 3-1 (WCQ)
Cherundolo (5)Guatemala 2-1 (WCQ)
U.S. Right Backs (2013):
Chandler(1) @Honduras 1-2 (WCQ)
Cameron(1)Costa Rica 1-0 (WCQ)
Cameron(2) @Mexico 0-0 (WCQ)
Evans (1)@Jamaica 2-1 (WCQ)
Evans (2)Panama 2-0 (WCQ)
Evans (3)Honduras 1-0 (WCQ)
Parkhurst (2)Belize 6-1 (GC)
Beltran (1)Cuba 4-1 (GC)
Parkhurst (3)Costa Rica 1-0 (GC)
Parkhurst (4)El Salvador 5-1 (GC)
Parkhurst (5)Honduras 3-1 (GC)
Parkhurst (6)Panama 1-0 (GC)
Note:Total starts in parentheses.
The irony is, the USA has a lot of promising young right backs coming through the pipeline -- Seattle's all-star rookie DeAndre Yedlin, the Revs' Andrew Farrell, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, and 18-year-old Kellyn Acosta, who make his first start for Dallas Sunday night -- but they'll all unlikely be ready by Brazil '14 to step into the U.S. lineup.
If Cherundolo and Chandler can't go, the only other choices besides Evans right now are Michael Parkhurst, Geoff Cameron and Tony Beltran. Parkhurst played well enough that he earned another call-up for the BiH game even if he isn't in the first-team picture at Augsburg. Cameron has started at three positions in the Hexagonal but he's looked the least comfortable at right back. Beltran's only start at the Gold Cup came against Cuba -- in front of his home RSL fans.
Evans is in many ways the anti-Chandler, willing to step in at the last minute, as he was this spring -- he wasn't even on the initial list of 25 players for the five May-June matches. He normally plays in midfield for the Sounders, but he filled in more than adequately in his three starts punctuated by an improbable winning goal in the first game at Jamaica.
The question mark on Evans is whether he has the pace to handle a winger coming at him with speed -- the one thing about Chandler there is no doubt. On his home ground, Evans struggled at times against Panama, but in retrospect he did adequately when you consider the troubles Mexico's backline had on its right side with Alberto Quintero in its two losses to the Canaleros at the Gold Cup.
Evans in the Hexagonal
(SA Report Cards)
7 BRAD EVANS (Seattle Sounders) 10/1.The reason he plays so many positions is that he’s pretty good at just about everything: tracking, tackling, passing, heading, and as his crisp collection and shot showed, finishing. His determination and ruggedness were essential against similar opponents, who bested him on occasion but paid a heavy price for doing so. His storybook goal sets him up for a hero’s welcome in Seattle for the game with Panama Tuesday.
5 BRAD EVANS (Seattle Sounders) 11/1.Alberto Quintero exposed him a couple of times early in the match and occasionally thereafter he came up short when substitute Nelson Barahona floated into his area, but usually he and his teammates blotted out the danger. Whether because of the bumpy surface or fatigue – he played the full 90 minutes for the third time in 10 days – his play wasn’t always crisp but his diligent effort got him through the game.
6 BRAD EVANS (Seattle Sounders) 12/1.Andy Najar and his Seattle teammate Mario Martinez seemed capable of besting Evans yet seldom were able to use that leverage to create a clear scoring opportunity, and as the game evolved Evans tucked in a little tighter and closed up the spaces. He worked a few good combinations up the right flank and could have scored with a header but headed it straight to the keeper.