3813_backline_isi_usmntmj020613032 Michael Janosz/isiphotos.com
ASN Weekly Debate

Should We Worry about the USMNT's Defensive Crisis?

American Backline Week continues here on ASN. Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon talk appropriate panic level and decide, well, something. "Analytics" are involved.
BY Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon Posted
March 08, 2013
12:07 PM
Noah Davis: Ryan, how freaked out should we be by the American defensive crisis?

Ryan O'Hanlon: Noah, I'm not that worried, actually. I mean, the defense isn't all that great, but I'm not sure it ever was. No one's really playing well—save for, like, two guys—or even playing all that much, which is concerning. But weren't we concerned about this a long time ago?

Davis: Fair to say your level of concern is high, same as it ever was?

O'Hanlon: Yes, it is high—but it seems like, to me, it's just a thing to worry about so you have something to worry about. A way to fill the time between the first two games. If Costa Rica rips the backline apart in two weeks, then sure. Go crazy.

Davis: But at one point in the not too distant past, the backline—or at least the center backs and Tim Howard—was the strength of this team, right? Or maybe I'm just making this all up and hindsight is 20/100. Dramatics aside, the whole thing is sort of a trainwreck now. More charitably, fit, in-season Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez should be able to get the job done, right? Isn't that what people have been wanting for six months?

O'Hanlon: I think you're right. Or, at least, it  felt like that. I mean, watching the U.S. play today, they just feel vulnerable, like whoever they're playing against could sort of score at any time. I don't think it was like that in the past? Or I'm forgetting. But anyway, I don't know. Maybe they're not being protected by the midfield enough, either? I'm not really sure, because all of the guys seem talented—maybe more talented than ever before—but it just isn't really working yet.

Davis: I don't remember being quite as terrified that the other team was going to score every time they had the ball, no. But I am positive about the future: there's solid depth at the fullback spots for the first time in what seems like forever, and there are plenty of options at center back. Plus: Tim Howard. But we seem to be in this weird place where the older center backs are a little too old and the younger ones are a little too young/inexperienced. It makes me think Gonzalez's ACL injury might be hugely more important in retrospect because it pushed his timetable back, although I'm still not convinced he's the answer. One of the commenters pointed out that Maurice Edu's an option, and I wonder if he will get a start now that he's playing. He did pair with Cameron in Mexico City in August.

O'Hanlon: One of the commenters? That was me!

Davis: Your name is Adam Austin?

O'Hanlon: No, but as our dedicated readers know, a few months ago when we were discussing The Best American XI -- in this very space -- I said I wanted Maurice Edu at centerback. Anyway, I'd like to see him get a shot there. He's good at soccer. Good soccer players on the field is a good thing. I'm not sure he will, though. He might start the next one, but I doubt it'll be in the back.

Davis: Maybe you should be the coach.

O'Hanlon: I'm definitely interested in/overqualified for the job, but I could not coach Jermaine Jones. I just ... no.

Davis: That's fair. We'll put that on the back burner for now. So you think Edu gets a start, but not in the back? That's... interesting. See also: wrong.

O'Hanlon: I said "might," OK? And he came on and played well against Honduras. He was basically the only one to get any Klinsmann praise after the game, too. Therefore: I would not be shocked if he was starting against Costa Rica. You don't think so?

Davis: Even though I argued he was going to get more time after Honduras, I just don't see who comes off the field. As much fun as it would be, you can't just add players Ryan.

O'Hanlon: Subtract Danny Williams. Add Maurice Edu. There: math. I don't want that to happen, but it could.

Davis: That was rather simple, I suppose. You are overqualified for the coaching thing.

O'Hanlon: People worry about figuring out how to use statistics in soccer? I'm pretty sure we just solved that.

Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon do this every week. No one is really sure why.

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