"Anybody can play left back."
Jurgen Klinsmann's statement from June may be true, or at least true in his system and against Antigua and Barbuda, but Klinsmann still needs a left back. When he made that claim four months ago, the United States were out of natural left backs and everything went just fine in a 3-1 win over the Benna Boys, but tonight the United States will test their manager's theory again.
Fabian Johnson is the unquestioned number one choice for the U.S. at left back, and despite only playing the position for less than a year he has emerged as one of the better left backs in the Bundesliga, but he is not available tonight because of the flu. Neither is Edgar Castillo, Klinsmann's second choice at left back who reaggravated a foot injury in training.
It is unlikely that Klinsmann ever anticipated going to his third choice at left back again. In June he went with Jose Francisco Torres, who was never tested and just about cruised through 90 minutes, but he isn't on the roster as the U.S. gets ready to take on Antigua and Barbuda again.
Despite being without his first two choices, though, Klinsmann did not call in any replacements and for good reason. The U.S. is playing a team they should have no problem with, as evidenced by Torres never being challenged the first time around, and more importantly, he has plenty of options at left back.
- Michael Parkhurst - Most U.S. fans remember him as a center back from his time with the New England Revolution or as a right back, where he has played for FC Nordsjaelland and started for the U.S. in Jamaica last month, but he does have a bit of experience at left back too. Parkhurst has proven capable of defending well pretty much anywhere on the pitch and that would be the case at left back, even if the right-footed defender wouldn't offer a ton going at the forward. At the very least, Parkhurst would be dependable.
- Carlos Bocanegra - At 33 years old, the Americans' captain has slowed down some and is no longer as capable at left back as he used to be, but he still has plenty of experience at the position. He got his start with the national team at left back and was playing there in the World Cup as recently as two years ago. Like Parkhurst, he is a very dependable option and he is similarly challenged going forward despite being left-footed. Klinsmann has shown an unwillingness to move him from the center, though. if Bocanegra is deployed on the left, expect Clarence Goodson or even Maurice Edu to slide into the central defense alongside Geoff Cameron.
- Sacha Kljestan - Klinsmann isn't afraid to use Kljestan on the left, as he did against Italy, even if he does seem scared to actually play the midfielder at times. While Kljestan has no meaningful experience in defense, he does a lot of chasing the ball in the midfield at Anderlecht and his tackling has improved. More importantly, as Torres proved in June, defending should not matter and Kljestan can provide enough deeper possession to allow the midfield to push forward or provide a threat going forward. In terms of playing like Torres did, Kljestan is the closest Klinsmann has. He would be a left back in name only, and against the Benna Boys that's just fine.
- Danny Williams - After playing superbly against Jamaica, Klinsmann probably would like to keep Williams in the team, but Michael Bradley's return leaves him with too many midfielders for the number of spots. Left back could be a place to keep Williams in the team, though. He has not played left back, but he did get a few reps at right back in the Bundesliga so he isn't completely inexperienced along the back line. He doesn't do too well out wide, even on the right, so he wouldn't scare the Benna Boys going forward, but he is tenacious in defense and would provide more in the attack than Parkhurst and Bocanegra.