News from Sunday that Michael Parkhurst will replace Brad Evans for the upcoming pair of U.S. World Cup qualifiers tells us three things:
- Geoff Cameron (pictured) will almost certainly line up at right back when the United States plays at Costa Rica next week and again a few days later during the latest U.S.-Mexico clash, this time in Columbus, Ohio. (Who doesn’t love a good U.S-Mexico clash – especially when El Tri remains somewhere between “crisis” and “full-on Mexican meltdown!”)
- The U.S. situation at right back still needs some work; it has become one of two trouble spots on the roster, along with left back.
- It’s getting easier to see where everyone stands on Jurgen Klinsmann’s depth chart.
The move comes as the last of Klinsmann’s latest call-ups gather in Miami today; they will train there Monday and again on Tuesday morning before departure into Costa Rica for Friday’s match against the Ticos.
Evans and Cameron were the only right backs on the 23-man roster released late last week, although Fabian Johnson could surely fill the gap in a pinch. Sunday’s late news out of U.S. Soccer means Cameron is surely the guy.
That’s not bad considering the long-legged fellow is a starter at the position for a Premier League club. On the other hand, Cameron did not go to Stoke City a year ago as a right back, but rather as a center back. He’s not a natural closer to the touchline – not at this point, anyway.
Further, this removes one other holding midfield option for Klinsmann; remember how good Cameron looked in that position as the last round of qualifier came and went so successfully in June.
Evans had started five consecutive U.S. matches at right back for which he was available, including three qualifiers. That’s a bit telling, too, as Evans plays the role of midfield utility knife for Seattle. Not to put too fine a point on it, but he is not a natural right back either.
Clearly, then, Parkhurst is next in line on Klinsmann’s depth chart. Parkhurst was passable as a right back in Gold Cup matches – but we know to judge that for what it’s worth. Even in that competition, Parkhurst added very little to the attack, generally preferring the safer passing options and hardly ever getting aggressive about dashing forward. When outside backs cannot be effective attackers it changes all the tactical and personnel calculus around them. Optimally, then, the right-sided attacker must be someone who can provide width (rather than someone who likes to cut inside) because Parkhurst will struggle to effectively do so.
What all this means is that right back is a place of relative instability, certainly when compared to positions of strength at the moment: striker, second forward, right- and left-sided attacker, holding midfielder, linking midfielder, center back and goalkeeper. Pretty much all of them check the box for “solid enough” right for now – other than right and left back, that is.
It will continue to be so until Timothy Chandler gets himself sorted out, and until Steve Cherundolo gets back to good health.