May 30, 2012; Landover, MD, USA; USA midfielder Fabian Johnson (23) reaches out for Brazil defender Danilo (21) during the second half of a men's international friendly match at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Rafael Suanes-US PRESSWIRE
Editor's Warning: After the break, this gets super depressing. Before the break however is probably the happiest I've ever been about a US Soccer player.
As DarthYoshi was quick to point out on the last post, this has been the historic Achilles' heel of US Soccer. Naturally, there will be a dearth of left footed soccer players. Those who learn from a young age will naturally go to their dominant side and the majority of us are right handed. People like me who learn at an older age know this and try to use each foot resulting in an incredibly poor soccer player.
Here are our left backs used in major tournament games since 1998's World Cup.
|Year||Tournament||1st Team||Sub||3rd Choice or Notes|
|1998||World Cup||David Regis||LOL 3-6-1|
|1999||Confed Cup||Frankie Hejduk|
|2000||Gold Cup||Frankie Hejduk|
|2002||World Cup||Frankie Hejduk||Played 3-5-2 For Last Two Matches
|2003||Gold Cup||RB Greg Vanney||Frankie Hejduk|
|2005||Gold Cup||RB Greg Vanney||Frankie Hejduk|
|2006||World Cup||LM Eddie Lewis||CB Carlos Bocanegra||Frankie Hejduk|
|2007||Gold Cup||Jonathan Bornstein||Frankie Hejduk|
|2008||WC Qualifying||Heath Pearce||Jonathan Bornstein||Frankie Hejduk|
|2009||Confed Cup||CB Carlos Bocanegra||Bad Jonathan Bornstein||Frankie Hejduk|
|2010||World Cup||CB Carlos Bocanegra||Jonathan Bornstein|
|2011||Gold Cup||Eric Lichaj||Bad Jonathan Bornstein|
|2012||WC Qualifying||Fabian Johnson||Edgar Castillo|
Apologies if my fuzzy memory has any of those wrong, but I coupled them with some serious research to find Frankie Hejduk played forever and was always our backup plan if our first plan sucked. In two consecutive World Cups, we played three in the back specifically because we had no left back and tons of central midfielders. For the majority of my avid following, Jonathan Bornstein has been our left back of choice. First, he wasn't a left back until Bob Bradley made him one for Chivas USA. Second, he was Jonathan Bornstein and was part of two of the worst defensive performances of the Bradley era (Brazil '09, Mexico '11). It's weird to note that he is only 27 years old and his last performance was so abysmal that he basically disappeared off of the face of the Earth. This is the last we will speak of this. On to the happier part...
1. Fabian Johnson, 24, Hoffenheim (Germany), 26
If we have learned anything the past two games, this is the most important knowledge. Fabian Johnson is our left back for now and given his age probably through at least two World Cups and perhaps a third.. It's not just two games. He has been this good in every game he has played for us, whether in the midfield or at left back. In the modern game, fullbacks are very much two way players and Johnson gives us that. Not only did he make the run and service to get the US it's lone goal against Brazil, he was solid in defense and made up ground even when beaten. Also, don't worry about Timmy Chandler 2.0, he made his one time switch so he is a US player for life.
(After the break, the rest of our left back pool.)
2. Edgar Castillo, 25, Club Tijuana, 27
Edgar Castillo is a natural left back, but has never looked like it for the National Team. While he wasn't especially poor against Scotland, the play of Fabian Johnson was perhaps the worst thing that could happen to Castillo. However, if he keeps his club form up, he might expect to always be called in for this roster as this team lacks cover at left back and also while trailing Klinsmann may want to push Johnson up into left midfield where we lack width.
3. Heath Pearce, 27, New York Red Bull, 29
The fact that he like "he who will not be named" is also 27 years old still amazes me. (Soccer players age at the exact same rate as normal humans.) Like Frankie Hedjuk, Pearce may likely linger around for years on the fringe just screaming look at me. More likely, he will be the aging veteran on the January rosters as MLS isn't packed with left back talent.
The depressing part is that in the end of our depth chart. Three freaking left backs. It's important to remember that you don't need to be left footed to play left back. The problem is that the best wingers are right wingers and the most attacking fullbacks are right backs. It goes to say that you need a solid and fast defensive player on the left, no matter the dominant foot. In all honesty, Eric Lichaj if called in would be the best backup here, and if Chandler ever comes back into the fold he falls under that category as well. Now, for some hope...
Sean Cunningham, 19, Molde (Norway), 21
The hard part about covering the young Americans is so many are making their way to Scandinavia. The best part of that is the managers there seem to be far more concerned about player development than just club continuity. Cunningham ended last season on loan to Stabæk playing alongside US veteran Ricardo Clark. He did play in central defense, so I considered listing him in the center back post. However, we always dream of left back depth.
Sporting KC Connection
Seth Sinovic 25, 27
Sinovic is going to be in the strangest position of all of our players. Like most, his best chance to impress will likely always be a January camp. However, there is absolutely zero depth at left back and that may present options. The problem is that Sporting KC's style is exactly what is needed at the national team level, but Klinsmann is much more in favor of players abroad.
It seems that question has been answered. It's Johnson for the immediate future and given no hiccups for the long-term as well. Hopefully, that will give the US time to settle other left backs into the fold, and then end this history of mismatched and converted left backs not fit for the high-level of World Cup play.