Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up
NBCSports Header Logo

Long night ahead at Azteca? Center back position looks iffy

Antigua and Barbuda v United States

TAMPA, FL - JUNE 08: Midfielder Maurice Edu #7 of Team USA advances the ball against Team Antigua and Barbuda during the FIFA World Cup Qualifier Match at Raymond James Stadium on June 8, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Getty Images

What U.S. Soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann knows: Clearly, he understands the game and after a year in charge he knows his players’ capabilities.

What we know: the Klinsmann selects personnel based on feel and on a fluid set of criteria – and that he’s not afraid to go his own way. Sometimes the choices don’t seem to make much sense, but the results have been mostly positive, so we shrug our shoulders at some of the quirky calls and give the manager benefit of the doubt. Most of us, anyway.

And here we are again, as Klinsmann seems to be drawing up a defensive plan that few of us saw coming.

The relatively inexperienced Geoff Cameron apparently will be partnered centrally along the back line with the lesser experienced Maurice Edu.

Edu has filled in at center back here and there, his performance there in the 2008 Olympics being the biggest test.

But with Clarence Goodson, Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu not in the best position to travel into North America for this one, Klinsmann’s options fell on the “limited” side. Clearly.

(MORE: Let’s talk about this U.S.-Mexico “gap” that’s so topical)

Three complications threaten to make Wednesday night at Azteca a quite miserable place for the U.S. back line:

First, there’s no steadying, veteran hand in Steve Cherundolo along the outside. The choices along the outside have precious little international experience, as well.

Second, the team’s best midfielder, Michael Bradley, won’t be around to protect the back line.

Finally, Mexico is bringing a strong team. Truly, there will be no place to hide inside roiling Estadio Azteca. What Edu told

Obviously it’s a big game and playing against a quality side, but as long as everyone communicates well and we just guide each other through the process it should be all right. [Klinsmann] said he wanted to try me out there today in training, in a partnership with Geoff. And then we’ll probably work on it a little bit more tomorrow in practice, and see how it goes.”