The United States men’s national team is preparing for the start of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. About a year ago SSFC’s Depth Chart series explored the USMNT player pool. Now, a year later, the team has improved tremendously from a horrid 2015, but how has the outlook on the pool changed? So with that in mind, as the Americans gear up for the Hex, we attempt to create a depth chart for the team, position by position. Figuring out what Klinsmann is thinking is a fool's errand, so this is what our depth chart would be and we'll talk about how we landed here.
Rob: The more the player pool changes, a few things remain the same. Our right back depth chart hasn't changed much in a year. While the rankings look similar, I'd argue the quality (or at least the form) of the players in them is much higher than it was a year ago. Fabian Johnson is still the de facto king of every position he's been known to play. He hasn't played much right back for the USMNT in a long time thanks to DeAndre Yedlin's emergence, but Klinsmann has seemed to sour on the young full back lately, or at least his public comments seem to indicate that. What's your take on the current right back pool?
Brendan: Like everything related to the U.S. national team, it has the potential to be world class, can look terrible on the wrong day against an inferior opponent, and generally settles somewhere in the middle. To that end, no matter what Klinsmann says in the press, it's Yedlin's position until a clear challenger comes along. I imagine this "true challenger" will be a pure right back, and not a convert like Michael Orozco or a utility man like Geoff Cameron.
Rob: The USMNT do have a few natural right backs lurking behind Yedlin. Everyone's favorite dual-national, Timmy Chandler, is back to his old habit of getting our hopes up with stellar club performances. I would love to see him replicate them with the national team, but he never seems to be able to pull that off when he gets the rare chance. Is there something that's just incompatible between the USMNT and Chandler or is there still hope he can find success at this level?
Brendan: One day something might click. Maybe he'll change his pre-match breakfast or magically adapt. The talent is there, it's always been there. Chandler could come on strong or Eric Lichaj could change Klinsmann's opinion. There does seem to be a lack of "young" challengers, although Yedlin is hardly a veteran.
Rob: Lichaj is a very weird case. He's still very much in his prime and by all accounts is a consistent performer for his club. He finally got a call-up in a throwaway pre-Copa America friendly against Puerto Rico this year and did fine. But for some reason he's just not in Klinsmann's plans whatsoever. I'm beginning to think our pal Jurgen has a underlying hatred for the English second-division.
One young player coming up the ranks that could challenge Yedlin is the Philadelphia Union’s Keegan Rosenberry. While he may lose out to Jordan Morris for the MLS Rookie of the Year award, he's impressed big time in his first pro season. While not as explosive with his pace as Yedlin, he seems more well-rounded as a defender and maybe more technical with the ball at his feet. If he can avoid a sophomore slump, I could see him sneaking into the picture soon.
Brendan: Rosenberry has had a solid season. Played every minute and didn't receive a single caution. If Klinsmann does choose to dip into MLS for another right back, he could also consider Tony Beltran from Real Salt Lake or Andrew Farrell from the New England Revolution. However, if these are the options, then Yedlin really has no reason to worry.
It's more likely that the left back position will get overloaded and one of the players gets moved over to the other side of the field.
Depth Chart Series: