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USMNT World Cup preliminary roster: Breaking down the defenders

Jurgen Klinsmann has stacked his back line to give himself options.

George Frey

The United States knows that their back line is a major question mark and to compensate Jurgen Klinsmann is bringing 11 defenders to World Cup training camp, more than any other position group:

DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Timmy Chandler, Brad Evans, Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson, Fabian Johnson, Michael Parkhurst, DeAndre Yedlin.

The core group of Beasley, Besler, Cameron, Evans, Gonzalez, Goodson Johnson and Parkhurst come as no surprise. They have been the core of Jurgen Klinsmann's defense (or sometimes midfield), getting regular call-ups, starting in qualifiers and being touted by the U.S. manager as key or important players. If Klinsmann put those eight on the plane to Brazil and called it a day, it would be absolutely no surprise.

The surprises -- and how much of a surprise varies from player to player -- comes with the other four players.

John Brooks is the mildest of surprises, having been recruited to the U.S. by Klinsmann and being a regular for the team of late. Whether he makes the team is to be determined, but he was always likely to make the squad, even as just a chance to learn because he is the team's centerback of the future.

The bigger surprises come at right back, where Chandler and Yedlin will each get chances to impress. For Chandler, it's a long time coming as he returns to the team for the first time since February of 2013, while Yedlin is the young players trying to prove he's ready for the international stage.

Chandler has had a rocky relationship with the U.S. reportedly keeping himself out for a while as he hoped to make the Germany team, then cap tying himself to the Americans in a friendly against Honduras last February. The problem is that he was a disaster in that match and hasn't been with the team since, either because of his reluctance, Klinsmann's reluctance or injuries, depending on who you asked, but Klinsmann never ruled him out from consideration. He had chances to say that Chandler wouldn't be on the team, but didn't making it clear he was still in the mix and with his fitness close to 100%, he found a way onto the team.

Yedlin's situation was a little hazier, with him clearly showing he has the talent to be an excellent player, but still struggling with youth and inexperience. Keep in mind, Yedlin has only been a defender for three years, which shows at times, but his progression has been remarkable and he's played his way into contention. Like Brooks, at the very least the experience he gains in camp will be valuable, but with the questions the U.S. has at right back, it would be foolish to rule any player out of contention to even start if he has an excellent camp.

With 11 players called into camp at the back, it's tough to say that anyone was snubbed. Michael Orozco continues to be solid in Liga MX and his ability to pass from the back has made him a Klinsmann favorite, but the U.S. already had enough centerbacks, and Edgar Castillo inability to defend probably cost him with more attacking left backs in Beasley and Johnson near locks for the team.

The most interesting part about the group is how many versatile players there are. Geoff Cameron is a right back for Stoke City and will be in that mix, but he's a better centerback internationally. With so many options at right back, Cameron could move centrally, but Klinsmann also has six options centrally and that might put Cameron at fullback only. That doesn't take into account his viability as a midfielder.

Johnson has also played right back for Hoffenheim, making him an option at both fullback positions as well as in the midfield, while Beasley can play both left back and midfield. Chandler is in the same boat on the right, as a fullback or midfielder, while Evans can play as a central midfielder along with right back and Parkhurst can play any position along the back line.

The versatility of so many players will be important come June 2, when Klinsmann has to name his final 23-man roster. Rosters often become a numbers game, with managers needing enough players for cover at every position, but Klinsmann will have players who can cover at multiple positions, allowing him to get creative with his roster and almost toss numbers out the window, if need be.