Author: Steve Davis

Johnson of the U.S. steps away from Nosworthy of Jamaica during their World Cup qualifying soccer match at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio

Right back: a cursed U.S. national team position?


Once upon a time, not too long ago, left back was the problem child position around the U.S. national team. It was the position with issues, the personnel riddle that refused to be solved despite varied and valiant attempts.

It was like that for more than a decade, going back to a time so troubled that ol’ David Regis seemed like the answer.

David Regis was not the answer.

We’ve officially witnessed a changing of the guard, so to speak, during the current World Cup cycle. The position most likely to keep U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann up at night these days: U.S. right back.

(MORE: Chandler injured in Nuremberg match)

Timothy Chandler’s injury today is the latest reminder that every option at this position come with its own set of issues.  Let’s take a quick, fresh look at the candidates to play right back this summer in Brazil. (Or, in a couple of cases, guys who came close to candidacy over the last couple of years.)

  • Brad Evans: He’s the top choice at the moment, even though it’s not his spot for the Seattle Sounders. Playing one position for club and something different for country isn’t exactly unique. Then again, it’s not exactly ideal, either, now is it?
  • Geoff Cameron: The guess here is that Cameron, still doing well at the right back spot for Stoke, will be the starting right back when Klinsmann lines ‘em up against Ghana on June 16 at Estadio das Dunas in Natal. But for whatever reason (as we talked about earlier this week), Klinsmann has been reluctant to embrace the long-legged righty as a fullback, preferring that the player fight his way into central defensive candidacy for Stoke City. Again, it might be changing. Either way, this one may be the oddest duck in a lineup of odd duck personnel conundrums at the U.S. right back spot.
  • Steve Cherundolo: The longtime U.S. incumbent at right back slips further and further from World Cup candidacy with each inactive week that passes. He just can’t get past the injury issues that have taken him out of the Hannover lineup all year.
  • DeAndre Yedlin: Word is that Klinsmann really liked what he saw out of the young Sounders outside back during an eventful January camp. But it’s just too early for him. Might we see a big run from the guy during World Cups in 2018 and 2022? Could be! But for 2014? The guy remains pretty raw.
  • Tony Beltran: Just over one year ago he was among the guys performing pretty well in camp. Then came a rough night as a starter against Canada, and Beltran just hasn’t made up the lost ground since.
  • Fabian Johnson: A natural lefty, Johnson (pictured above) has started here and there out of necessity at right back for the United States. And could certainly do so again; he always looked OK as a right back. But when you use a guy who is “solid” or just “OK” on the right, but who could be potentially dynamic and even game-breaking on the other side of the field, you’ve left something pretty valuable on the table, haven’t you?
  • Michael Parkhurst: Steady performances (nothing sizzling, but a dependable defensive presence) on the right and on the left have put the Columbus Crew man in position for heavy roster consideration. When it comes to those 21st, 22nd and 23rd spots, versatility is pretty clutch. Of course, he’ll be playing center back for Gregg Berhalter at Crew Stadium, so that mucks things up a bit.
  • Timothy Chandler: If your poured the truth syrup over Klinsmann’s morning pancakes, he’d probably confess that the flakey young FC Nuremberg man is alive in this conversation today only because of the positional instability. Otherwise, he’d be dead as a box of hammers to Klinsmann and the U.S. staff. This latest news (today’s injury) adds yet another moving part to it all, at very best. At worst (well, depending on your definition of “worst,” which probably swings in this case on your feelings about Chandler), this more or less eliminates the guy for roster consideration.

Why the Galaxy nailed it with Bruce Arena’s contract extension

Bruce Arena, coach of the Los Angeles Ga

Even after Tim Leiweke, architect of the big doings around LA Galaxy Valley, left the premises, the good decisions kept coming.

Landon Donovan was re-signed. That was a good call.

Omar Gonzalez was kept happy with a DP deal. Another good call, even if it meant the champs of MLS in 2011 and 2012 couldn’t import the next wow-wow boy for awhile (because he was No. 3 on the DP list, along with Donovan and Robbie Keane).

And now we get word that Bruce Arena will be aboard for a few years to come. Honestly, they guy has earned the right to stay around as long as he wants.

At 62, he remains as competitive as the day he walked into RFK Stadium as D.C. United’s manager in Major League Soccer’s inaugural 1996 season. Stand in front of the man and ask questions after a Galaxy loss and you’ll know. (And you had better be prepared to ask a thoughtful question; Arena at his best will put up with faux-reporters just looking for sound bites, or he might exercise some patience with a young journo … but Bruce Arena after a loss is not Bruce Arena at his best!)

He’s also consistently, reliably among the best managers in Major League Soccer.

He won at D.C. United. Yes, he had a leg up in personnel as management at United managed to game the system in the permissive days that even Arena as called the “Wild West.” But, heck, New York had the same leg up … and the MetroStars managed to stink up the joint year after year, proving that you can’t just buy up talent, roll ‘em a ball and expect it to all come together magically. You still need a shepherd tending the flock.

Speaking of New York: Arena was doing fine there, too, helping to make sense of the circus that franchise had always been. But management got impatient (because, you know, New York had always been tops around MLS) and ran Arena out after just more than a year, still with two years on his contract.

Arena certainly turned the Galaxy into a winner. Yes, Donovan and David Beckham was a good place to start. But wise assignment of role players around them was just as essential.

Not all of Arena’s personnel moves have paid off, but hits hits-to-misses ratio tilts wildly in the right direction. No word on how long the deal announced today keeps Arena around. If it’s three, four or five years, that’s fine.

He’ll be winning games for as long as he wants to be around.

Nemanja Vidic confirms days at Manchester United are done

Chelsea v Manchester United - Premier League
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Nemanja Vidic has been among the top Premier League center backs, and certainly the standard bearer at his position around Old Trafford, almost from the day he landed at Manchester United in January of 2006 (ending a two-and-a-half year pursuit by the club, in case you may have forgotten or never knew).

Well, his time at Old Trafford has just about reached its expiration date.

We had hints lately, but tonight it’s all there to see … or, perhaps, to lament if you count yourself among the worldwide legions of United supporters. The stately Serbian defender, whose contract with David Moyes’ team expires in a few months, told the team’s website that he will not play for United beyond this spring.

After noting the 15 trophies won at the club and thoughtfully acknowledging the opportunities and the fans, Vidic, 32, said:

I have decided that I will move on at the end of this season. I want to challenge myself again and try to make the best of myself in the coming years. … I’m not considering staying in England as the only club I ever wanted to play for here is Manchester United and I was lucky enough to be part of this club for so many years. I’ve got a few options to move on and I will choose the right one for me and for my family.”