United States national team depth chart: First choice center backs are clear

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Five U.S. matches over the last month has generated significant movement on the U.S. depth chart – perhaps more shuffling than in any month-long stretch in Jurgen Klinsmann’s time in charge, which is now approaching two years.

Over the next few days we’ll continue to examine the U.S. depth chart, making our best educated guesses at how things stack up on Jurgen Klinsmann’s big board inside the manager’s Home Depot Center offices.

Next up: CENTER BACKS

There’s not muddle in this middle. Not at the top, at least.

Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler have emerged as the clear, top choice men in the middle of Jurgen Klinsmann’s back line.

There are still some debates to be had here – and who doesn’t love them some depth chart debate? Especially when debates signals … they are going to Brazil! (Go ahead and Rosetta Stone yourself into Portuguese fluency, because this thing is going to happen.)

One back line debate is not quite as obvious as the other. I’m proposing that Besler may have lapped Gonzalez as Klinsmann’s No. 1 go-to in the ordering. The Sporting Kansas City man isn’t as physically blessed as Gonzalez, but his instincts, positioning and technique are frequently picture perfect. Not bad for a man barely in the U.S. picture at this time last year.

We’ll keep Gonzalez at the top for the time being. Not that it really matters who is 1 and who is 1A’; two center backs are required, after all. Still … debate … fun, and all that.

Perhaps there is something of a muddle past the first two or three, but not much of one. It seems logical that Geoff Cameron would make a return into the middle if Besler (pictured) or Gonzalez were to become injured. Then again, where Cameron plays at Stoke City this year (right back, left back, holding mid, right mid … there really is quite a menu to choose from with the big fellow these days) could have something to say about it.

Clarence Goodson has been a third-choice man for some time now, or somewhere thereabouts, and that’s probably where the veteran will land for Brazil 2014. It’s not an awful place to be.

The interesting names are further down this list. Maurice Edu can and has performed along the back line. But there’s a hitch here: presumably Klinsmann would want him playing first-team soccer at an acceptable level for that to be a viable option, and Edu needs to sort out his situation at Stoke this summer.

Michael Orozco keeps hanging around, keeping a chip in the big game. And after that … wait, what is this, 2008 all over again?

Carlos Bocanegra could be an option under certain parameters (which we talked about in the look at U.S. left backs). And Onweyu will almost surely get a CONCACAF Gold Cup call-up, so this is his chance to climb the ladder anew, although he needs to find a club where far more playing time is an actual option.

U.S. CENTER BACK ordering

  • 1. Omar Gonzalez
  • 2. Matt Besler
  • 3. Geoff Cameron
  • 4. Clarence Goodson
  • 5. Maurice Edu
  • 6. Michael Orozco Fiscal
  • 7. Carlos Bocanegra
  • 8. Oguchi Onyewu

In review:

U.S. goalkeepers

U.S. right backs

U.S. left backs

Coming up tomorrow: Holding midfielders and linking midfielders

 

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Halted World Cup flip-throw heard around the world

AP Photo/Sergei Grits
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Milad Mohammadi knew the time was right for something special, but special isn’t always good.

And good is a subjective term. Cause to us this is very good, Milad.

The Iranian national team defender failed with a flip-throw bid in the final moments of a 1-0 loss to Spain on Wednesday at the World Cup in Russia.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

And this wasn’t like he illegally flipped or broke some other rule. No, like a kid trying an audacious jump into the deep end, Akhmat Grozny star Mohammadi just bailed and climbed in from the side (so to speak).

The kiss, the look skyward, the headbutt… all integral parts of a wonderful World Cup moment.

Renard, Morocco ‘very proud’ of unlucky national team

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If you would’ve told Morocco fans or their manager, Herve Renard, that they’d outshoot and outpossess both Iran and Portugal at World Cup, their next question would probably be, “So do we need to do against Spain to win Group B?”

Alas, Morocco lost a pair of 1-0 decisions to become the first team knocked out of the 2018 World Cup.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The Lions of Atlas fell to Iran in their opener on a stoppage time own goal after carrying 64 percent possession and a 13-8 advantage in shot attempts, then lost to a Cristiano Ronaldo fourth minute goal on Wednesday despite a 16-10 shot advantage and 53 percent of the ball.

“I’m very proud of the performance and I am very proud of my players, I’m very proud of this country,” Renard said.

With no hope of advancing to the next round, the manager is finding the experience bittersweet. From RTE:

“What I am sure of at this moment is that the entire Moroccan people is proud of this team. Of course it’s easier to play with a player who has one chance and he puts it away. But we are in Morocco.

“We have quality players. Despite the ups and downs of the game, we should have been more effective. Because, like in the first game, we had plenty of chances. I won’t blame anyone. That’s football. It’s always those who know how to be present in the box, the most gifted players, who make the difference. We took a lot of risks and we didn’t get our reward.”

It’s unlikely Morocco will hold either of those statistical advantages against Spain, especially a Spanish side yet to qualify, but there is plenty to like from the tournament aside from poor finishing quality.

But the performances of 19-year-olds Amine Harit (Schalke) and Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid) — not to mention Hakim Ziyech (25, Ajax) — seem to hint at a promise for 2022. And Renard’s men can still play spoiler for Spain, which is no small shockwave.

Queiroz: Iran has one ‘match point’ left in World Cup group stage

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Iran manager Carlos Queiroz isn’t going to let his tournament be defined by one win or one loss, especially with a massive moment on the horizon.

Iran fell 1-0 to Spain on Wednesday, days after defeating Morocco in its World Cup opener. Team Melli was denied its equalizer despite VAR review thanks to an offside, and failed in several other bids to level the score.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Now Queiroz and his men need a win over Portugal to qualify for the first knockout stage in its five World Cup history.

“We showed that we were ready to suffer and ready to compete. I felt we deserved a better result. There’s no doubt Spain play wonderful, stylish football but I thought we deserved more for the way we played.

“But congratulations to Fernando Hierro and Spain. We will learn a lot from this game. If you think of it like tennis, we had one match point today and we will have another against Portugal. Everything is still open. We are still alive and still dreaming.”

What chance do you give Iran of getting over on Portugal, who only topped a dominant Morocco side via a terrific designed play executed to perfection by Cristiano Ronaldo?

The odds are in Portugal’s favor, if only for its experience in tight games on massive stages. Well, perhaps the better “if only” would be to say if only for Ronaldo. Either way…