Ranking the U.S. candidates at left back

By Paul Kennedy
(@pkedit)

DaMarcus Beasley, the only American to play in four World Cups, announced his retirement from international soccer at the age of 32. With his departure, the search for a new U.S. left back begins again.

U.S. Left Backs at World Cup:
YEAR PLAYER
1990:
played 3-5-2
1994: Paul Caligiuri
1998: played 3-5-2
2002: Frankie Hejduk, then played 3-5-2
2006: Eddie Lewis, Carlos Bocanegra
2010: Carlos Bocanegra, Jonathan Bornstein
2014: DaMarcus Beasley

In the five games since the World Cup, Greg Garza has started three games, emerging as Beasley's heir apparent, while Timmy Chandler, Beasley's backup at the World Cup, has started two. Garza was the 11th player Coach Jurgen Klinsmann has started at left back since he took over in 2011.

U.S. Left Backs Under Klinsmann:
GS PLAYER
23
DaMarcus Beasley
10
Fabian Johnson
8
Timmy Chandler
7
Edgar Castillo
3
Michael Parkhurst
3
Greg Garza
1
Heath Pearce
1
Zach Loyd
1
Jose Torres
1
Carlos Bocanegra
1
Justin Morrow
Note:
Starters.

Here are the top candidates to succeed Beasley at left back:

Inside position ...

1. Greg Garza (Tijuana). Only 23, Garza is in his fifth year as a pro, but this is his first year as a full-time starter at Tijuana, replacing Edgar Castillo, another Mexican-American who has moved on to Atlas. In his favor, Garza is a natural left back so he has good understanding of the defensive responsibilities. He might not have the speed of Beasley or the German-Americans Klinsmann has used at the position, but Garza in confident coming forward. “It is fun to watch this guy," said Klinsmann after the October friendlies. "We had an eye on him for quite a while but he didn’t play on a regular basis for Tijuana. He sort of made his own way through the system. He went to Tijuana and pushed Edgar Castillo to Atlas. He is playing with real focus, defensively he is very strong and when there is a chance to go forward, he goes forward.”

2. Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt)
. Klinsmann called Chandler back in for the World Cup after being in his doghouse for more than a year, but he ended up going with Beasley at left back in Brazil. He's twice played Fabian Johnson and Chandler together since the World Cup and both times went with Johnson at right back and Chandler on the left. Chandler has been starting for Eintracht Frankfurt at right back, while Johnson has failed to settle in at Borussia Moenchengladbach and has been injured.

Worth a look ...

3. Ventura Alvarado (Club America). The Phoenix-born Alvarado came out of nowhere to start for Club America in the last four games of its run to the Liga MX Torneo Apertura championship. That's two more games than he had started for America in his first three years as a pro. He played right back for America but spent time at left back in 2013-14 on loan to second division Necaxa. Only 22, he's said he's interested in playing for the USA or Mexico. He's four months too old to play in under-23 Olympic qualifying. The first chance for him to be cap-tied will come at the 2015 Gold Cup.

4. Robbie Rogers (LA Galaxy). Rogers, 27, took over for the injured Todd Dunivant at left back for the Galaxy and kept the job the rest of the way en route to his second MLS title. He started in midfield for Columbus in 2008. Rogers goes back with Klinsmann to their days playing together on Orange County Blue Star and scored the first U.S. goal of the Klinsmann era, the tying goal against Mexico in August 2011. He earned the last of his 18 caps against Slovenia in November 2011. In his book Coming Out To Play, Rogers expressed regret that he did not hear from Klinsmann despite reaching out to him after he announced he was gay.

Others ...

Chris Klute (24), Seth Sinovic (27) and Michael Harrington (28) all went to Brazil with the national team in January, but Klute and Sinovic didn't stick around for the game against South Korea at the end of January and Harrington didn't dress as Klinsmann preferred to start Michael Parkhurst (30), whom he later cut at the Stanford camp. Klute and Harrington are now teammates after Harrington's trade last week from Portland to the Rapids. Parkhurst, who captained Columbus in his first year back in MLS, has not been recalled since the World Cup. Only Sinovic, who led Sporting KC in minutes played, had the kind of season that would indicate Klinsmann might recall him in January.

Age is not the side on the other Americans you'd immediately consider among the top MLS left backs: Chris Wingert (32), Chris Tierney (28) and Justin Morrow (27).

After Garza and Alvarado, there is a big dropoff in young left backs. The first-choice left back on the U-23s is 21-year-old Juan Pablo Ocegueda, who is playing on loan from Tigres to Alebrijes de Oaxaca after failing to get time with Tigres and Chivas de Guadalajara.

Tim Ream (27), who was most recently called in at the last minute for the Ireland game, plays at left back for Bolton Wanderers, though Klinsmann uses him at center back, his former position. Klinsmann has yet to recall Castillo (28) since his move to Atlas, while injuries have slowed down Eric Lichaj (26) since his only two appearances (off the bench) for Klinsmann in the November 2013 friendlies against Scotland and Austria.
1 comment about "Ranking the U.S. candidates at left back".
  1. Glenn Maddock, December 19, 2014 at 8:37 a.m.

    Rogers is the obvious choice from MLS for a look. Klisi knows him well and played with him in Orange County. His left back move was one of the best the Galaxy made this year en route to the MLS Cup. Give him a couple friendlies and see what he can do.

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