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USMNT State of the Union: Defenders

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Examining the form and situation of members of the U.S. player pool.

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Remember the good old days of, like, a month ago, when it seemed like so many American defenders finally seemed to be stepping up with their clubs, ready to contribute Internationally and finally, finally settle the debate about who the best American back line should be? We, too, remember them fondly, because the story's gone predictably South from there.

It's not that so many defenders have been playing particularly poorly; it's that no one seems to be that good at soccer at the moment in general. Players are playing fine and not much more. Let's take a look.

Kellyn Acosta:

Kellyn Acosta is difficult to grade as a defender because he doesn't play defense for FC Dallas. Because he's not a defender. However, Dallas have been very hot and cold with Acosta playing defensive mid, not managing to string results together so far in MLS play. Their inability to cope with the Red Bulls midfield left them reeling to a 4-0 loss at Red Bull Arena, and Acosta looked out of his league trying to track Toronto's front line. Not all down to him, but also not glowing. Grade: C+

Ventura Alvarado:

Still can't find much in the way of game time at Club America while their roster is healthy, despite a loaded schedule including the CONCACAF Champions League games, and apparently didn't train well during Olympic Qualifiers. Looks to be a "prospect pick." Still. Grade: D

Matt Besler:

Recovered from a concussion to return to the Sporting KC starting lineup and has been relatively solid when he needs to be. Still remains to be seen if "solid" is all it takes to get into Klinsmann's XI. Grade: B-

Steve Birnbaum:

Birnbaum's January camp and subsequent club form has seen his stock rise a bit in U.S. circles, and reports that European teams are after him certainly won't quiet that noise. D.C. United's product has improved marginally as of late, picking up two clean sheets in the last month, and he looked steady against a poor Guatemala side, but he also got a headache trying to track David Villa last weekend. In the mix for a starting spot. Grade: B-

John Anthony Brooks:

John Brooks's presence at Hertha Berlin is most strongly felt in his absence. With Brooks in the lineup the second half of this season, Berlin have given up 13 goals and earned 16 points from 12 games. Without him, they've earned only 1 point and given up an astounding 11 goals in just 4 games. That's nearly three goals a game without him versus just over a goal a game with him. The numbers don't lie, but Brooks also has to get and stay healthy for this summer to make an impact for the US. Grade: B

Geoff Cameron:

Cameron looks like he's finally locked down one of the starting spots at center back with Klinsmann, but his play has been inconsistent with Stoke as of late. Much of his success with the U.S. will come down to finding the right partnership. Grade: C+

Edgar Castillo:

Castillo has looked decent-to-good in Liga MX play, and he's firmly entrenched as the starting left back for league-leading Monterrey. His play against Guatemala did the job well enough, and as the only natural left back on Klinsmann's roster, he'll likely be first choice (unless Fabian Johnson gets switched back to defense). We'll see what Castillo's really made of this summer. Grade: B+

Timmy Chandler:

Chandler played himself back into Eintracht Frankfurt's starting XI, and even played a part in keeping Dortmund off the scoresheet and securing a vital 3 points to stave off relegation, which is nothing to sneeze at. I will almost never trust him in a U.S. uniform, but he's clearly impressed some U.S. coaches as of late. Grade: B

Brad Evans:

Forever Klinsmann's safety blanket, the Seattle defender has paired with Chad Marshall in the center of Seattle's back line to middling effect. Not spectacular, but relatively effective at times. On the outside looking in for an outside back spot. Grade: C+

Omar Gonzalez:

Gonzalez has transitioned to Liga MX very well, all things told, a more difficult and technical league than MLS, but his form has fallen off as of late and he continues to look unsettled and lacking in confidence whenever he's in a U.S. shirt. He'll have to really make an impression in the coming weeks if he wants a spot in Klinsmann's lineup (or his final roster at all). Grade: C

Eric Lichaj:

Probably the most intriguing conclusion in Klinsmann's preliminary roster, Eric Lichaj didn't just come in from the cold. He's checking for frostbite. Regardless, the Nottingham Forest man (nicknamed "The Rash" for his penchant for man-marking) has finally got some attention from the U.S. set-up. Whether he gets the final call is still anyone's guess. Grade: B-

Matt Miazga:

Miazga's move to Chelsea was met with fanfare, and his debut against Aston Villa was very promising. He looked immature against Swansea, was subbed off at halftime, and hasn't seen the field since then in a period where Guus Hiddink is letting younger players show their stuff while Chelsea have nothing to play for. Miazga's performances against Colombia also didn't seem up to the same standard he displayed with the Red Bulls for so much of last year. It's clear Miazga needs more seasoning, but getting it at Chelsea is as unclear a proposition as any. Grade: D+

Michael Orozco:

Orozco is finally seeing playing time for his club, which is good, since he wasn't the last time we ran a State of the Union. Tijuana, however, have failed to qualify for Liguilla, and have underwhelmed in general. Grade: C-

Tim Ream:

Ream and Fulham have reached the end of the Championship season, avoiding relegation but never threatening for promotion, either. There are whispers of Ream moving on as his play hasn't particularly impressed some of the Cottager faithful. Grade: C

DeAndre Yedlin:

Probably the most in-form American defender at the moment. Yedlin shook off some unfortunate ricochets that gifted Chelsea the lead to skip past the Chelsea defense and deliver a cross that found its way to Jermaine Defoe, grabbing a potentially life-saving three points for Sunderland (full highlights here).  The Black Cats are a point above the drop zone with a game in hand over Newcastle and Norwich, and Yedlin looks more and more like an honest-to-God Premier League fullback with each start. Grade: A-