Eric Lichaj Eager to Impress After Long U.S. Layoff
Nottingham Forest right back Eric Lichaj has been on the outside looking in since Jurgen Klinsmann took over the U.S. national team. His return to duty against Scotland is exciting on multiple levels.
BY Brian Sciaretta PostedGLASGOW—The United States national team played to a scoreless draw against Scotland on Friday, and for most it was a dull game. But for Nottingham Forest right back Eric Lichaj, Friday's contest could have been crucial. He hopes it marks his return to regular national team duty. Lichaj, who turns 25 on Sunday, was a regular with the United States under Bob Bradley following the 2010 World Cup. But when Jurgen Klinsmann was hired in August 2011, Lichaj fell out of favor. Last summer Lichaj left Aston Villa and signed with Nottingham Forest in the Championship. Since then he has been the team's starting right back and is in contention for promotion this year. His call-up to the national team was his first under Klinsmann and after a two-and-a-half year hiatus, he is excited to be back with the national team but isn't looking too far ahead at the moment. "It's been a long time since I've been in the setup and I've enjoyed it," Lichaj said. "Right now I just want to continue to be in the setup. I just want to take it camp by camp. Hopefully I can do enough this camp to be back." Following the game, Lichaj said he was happy with his brief performance. The Illinois native had played with many of the team's veterans before, including Sacha Kljestan, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and Jozy Altidore. He also played with many of the Scotland players before, and was familiar with the style of play in England and Scotland. "I'm more excited and I knew a lot of the guys," Lichaj said. "A lot of familiar faces here. I knew a lot of the guys on Scotland. I wasn't nervous." For Klinsmann, he knew that it was an important opportunity since the right back position has been difficult to fill. Brad Evans has emerged as the team's starter but behind him is a mystery since Steve Cherundolo has been hurt, Timothy Chandler has fallen out of the picture, and Geoff Cameron still is viewed as a central defender. It is unclear how the future will play out for Lichaj as the team builds toward the 2014 World Cup, but Klinsmann was impressed by the chemistry he has with the team's core and notes that there is room for him to make a push to be in Brazil next summer. "We wanted to give Eric a chance to come in here," Klinsmann added. "I personally wanted to see him. It's one thing to see his games at Forest but it's another thing seeing him in this group. How does he fit in? He's a great guy. The team likes him and there is good chemistry. You also want to give him an opportunity to play." "Our right back is Brad Evans," Klinsmann added. "He has that spot. Behind Brad there is some space. We've tried different people out there. Geoff Cameron can play that role. Michael Orozco can play it. We'll see in the next few months what happens with Steve Cherundolo. It's important for us to have [Lichaj] in here. It's good. Every training session helps me and my coaches evaluate him." One player who Lichaj was unfamiliar with was Brad Evans, and this camp was the first time he has met the Seattle Sounder veteran. He has followed the U.S. national team throughout World Cup qualifying and knows that Evans has done a good job this year. Even with the two competing for the right back position, he knows that it will only make the two of them stronger. "We're teammates," Lichaj said of Evans. "In the long run, everyone is trying to get to the World Cup and do well. In the end competition just ups everyone's game." As many U.S. fans were happy to have Lichaj back with the national team after 30 months, one thing about Lichaj was noticeably different: his hair. Now sporting a mohawk, Lichaj is reminiscent of Clint Mathis at the 2002 World Cup. "I'm a nice guy, but if it helps me look intimidating, good," Lichaj joked after the game. "No one will mess with me on the pitch and that's a good thing." What did you think of Lichaj's performance? Do you think he has a shot to make the 2014 World Cup team? Tell us below.
November 15, 2013
November 15, 2013