Michael Parkhurst has played well for the U.S. of late, the most recent example being this summer’s Gold Cup, but if he’s being called in for a World Cup Qualifier, Jurgen Klinsmann has a problem. Through four rounds of the Bundesliga season, the Augsburg defender has accumulated zero minutes of playing time. And that might be the most compassionate way to describe his season. The former Revolution stalwart hasn’t even made a game-day squad, yet when Brad Evans pulled out of this week’s qualifiers with a calf injury, he got Klinsmann’s call.
Steve covered this earlier in the week, but consider the road the U.S. travelled to get to this state. Steve Cherundolo started the cycle as the first choice right back, but injury concerns make the 34-year-old a serious doubt going forward. Timmy Chandler just hasn’t played well, and after trying so hard to keep the door for him, Klinsmann’s now reluctant to recall the German-born American. Brad Evans, a midfielder by trade, seemed to become first-choice though pure competence and intelligence, but when he’s not around, a player who can’t break into his club’s 18 gets recalled.
Given the dire straits at right back, the U.S. have one, clear, first-choice option for Costa Rica, though right back is not Geoff Cameron’s best position. In time, it may become his choice spot, the nominal center back, natural midfielder forced into a fullback’s role for Stoke City, but as we’ve seen when he’s played there with his national team, the transition remains a work in progress. At Stoke, he’s turned in a number of quality performances, but for the national team, when playing to the right of teammates with whom he doesn’t practice on a day-in, day-out basis, Cameron hasn’t looked his Potter-self.
Which, for more than just the teammate reason, is perfectly understandable. This is a player that used to fashion himself a midfielder — an attacking one, at that — but found his best success with Houston in central defense. That role saw him to MLS title games, into the national team, and eventually to the Premier League. Once there, he got some time in defensive midfield, even turning in a great shift in that role against Panama in World Cup Qualifying, but has eventually been asked to become a right back.
And by any reasonable standard, Cameron’s doing a good job. But it’s not his natural position. It’s not his favorite position. And in those times we see him struggle when pressed into service for the U.S., we can see it’s not his best position. Seattle reminded us he has a lot to give elsewhere.
To Cameron’s credit, he can pull it off. The U.S. have no reason to fear with him on the right. He isn’t perfect, he could improve, but he’s also not a glaring problem. That he is their obvious if only choice does speak to the sinkhole that’s developed on the depth chart. In an ideal situation, Cameron would either compete at other positions or be a spectacularly versatile option Klinsmann could employ in various roles.
This week, the U.S. depth issues likely confine him to one position. It’s something the team needs to address over the next eight months.