Eric Lichaj has circled the periphery of the U.S. player pool since Jurgen Klinsmann’s arrival two-plus years ago. The outside back’s most recent game time in a national team shirt came in the 2011 Gold Cup, when he got into a few matches and held his own, despite playing on the left, not his best side.
Those were Bob Bradley’s final matches as United States manager; Lichaj had not been called into a camp under Klinsmann – not until Monday, that is.
After playing irregularly last year for Aston Villa, Lichaj is a fixture this year for Nottingham Forest in England’s (second tier) Championship. That consistent playing time provided him the opportunity. Now we can infer two things from his selection for the national team’s pair of upcoming friendlies.
First, the right back spot remains wide, wide open – and still something of an issue.
This is not exactly “new news,” of course.
Steve Cherundolo could still re-claim the spot he held for so much of the last 10 years. But he is just now dressing again for Hannover, having found a place on the bench for the first time this year only last weekend. Cherundolo, 34, is only recently back from injury. Until he can / does, Klinsmann has to be aggressive about Plans B and C, etc.
“Hope,” in other words, cannot be the plan at right back.
If Cherundolo cannot regain form or fitness or remain healthy or whatever, Fabian Johnson, Brad Evans and Michael Parkhurst are all in the running. All have their strengths and weaknesses – but none of them will inspire tremendous confidence as a World Cup starter along the back line.
Thus, Klinsmann is forced to gamble and scramble a bit. Which is why Lichaj will drop into camp and perhaps appear against Scotland or Austria despite the manager’s recent assertions that “there are no surprises coming around the corner.”
Past that, this much seems certain:
Timothy Chandler is plum out of chances in Klinsmann’s book.
The German-American had been so wishy-washy about his international ambition and leanings, and Klinsmann seemed content to let the talented young defender work things out – but only to a point. Chandler is playing regularly for Nurnberg (although the club is bottom of the Bundesliga table), but his latest exclusion is pretty telling.
When Klinsmann is calling in guys who haven’t been with the team in two years, but not summoning a Bundesliga starter, it seems safe to say the manager is “done” with that guy.