What is this, 1998? Or 2004? Or 2008? This disconcerting situation with the U.S. left back position … what a kick in the head!
What’s worst, it’s a kick in the head that we’ve absorbed before.
It’s not just that an injury crisis is cracking the United States at the worst time, leaving the Americans vulnerable when everything is at stake. Jurgen Klinsmann and Co. will be favored Friday and again on Tuesday. But any little stumble could prove fatal to the World Cup qualifying bid – before it even reaches the final round!
Still, it’s more than that. Why did it have to be left back?
That’s been the trouble child position around the U.S. national team for more than a decade. It’s a burr in the boot that has hastened the graying of coaches for 15 years before Klinsmann, the likes of Steve Sampson, Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley.
So, this illness that will keep Fabian Johnson out of Friday’s qualifier in Antigua and Edgar Castillo out of both upcoming matches looks like bad karma biting. What did we do? Why must it be left back again?
Surely the soccer gods cannot still be upset over the whole David Regis thing, right? I mean, we shouldn’t have done it. Still, naturalizing the Frenchman just in time for World Cup ’98 was a half-baked idea, but it’s not exactly drowning kittens, now is it?
This is like having a long, dry spell when you’re single. You finally find a girlfriend, and she’s great! … Right up to the minute her company transfers here to Cairo.
(Johnson is the beloved in this scenario, in case you couldn’t figure that out; he’s been quite a find.)
(MORE: U.S. travel notes and a little late news on the left back trouble)
Here is a partial list of left backs through the years who landed in the “Meh” zone, somewhere between “just OK, but fairly underwhelming” to “just plain awful.” Some, in fairness, were left-footed midfielders or center backs asked to play the position because … well, because of the limping U.S. left back condition, where better options were forever being sought. (Names are in alphabetical order):
- Jeff Agoos
- DaMarcus Beasley
- Gregg Berhalter
- Jonathan Bornstein
- Bobby Convey
- Ramiro Corrales
- Todd Dunivant
- Cory Gibbs
- Jay Heaps
- Eddie Lewis
- Zach Loyd
- Heath Pearce
- David Regis
- Jonathan Spector
- Greg Vanney
That list doesn’t even include Eric Lichaj, who played left back for important Gold Cup matches in 2011. He was pretty adept over that short run, but it wasn’t his best spot. And then along came Johnson (and Timmy Chandler), so further experimentation with Lichaj seemed unnecessary and maybe even redundant.
Nor does it include a couple of one-offs, such as Anthony Wallace.
I wrote this story in 2008. So, it’s funny … although certainly not funny “ha-ha,” as they say. It’s just that, suddenly, so many of these words are relevant once again.