Has USMNT finally found a center back pairing it can settle on?
MEXICO CITY — Has the US national team finally found a center back pairing it can settle on?
That's one of the major talking points that emerged from Tuesday night's 0-0 draw against Mexico at the Estadio Azteca. The shutout was the culmination of a strong defensive performance by the Americans, led by the central defensive duo of LA Galaxy's Omar Gonzalez and Sporting Kansas City's Matt Besler. Based on their postgame comments Gonzalez and Besler believe they are a match made in heaven.
"It felt really comfortable and playing with 'Bes' was great," Gonzalez said after the match. "Going down the line I think that could be a good pairing."
"We have a great understanding of how each other play, a good partnership," Besler said. "And I love playing with Omar. He's a real easy guy to play off of. I just know what he's going to do. He's very good in the air and with his tackles and so as a partner of his, it's easy to play off of him."
Why such a symbiotic relationship on the field between the two? The players and manager Jurgen Klinsmann credit the weeks spent together in the most recent January camp, and Gonzalez says "for us two it was crucial."
The 24-year-old Gonzalez and 26-year-old Besler, the last two MLS Defender of the Year award winners, lined up alongside each other for the first time on January 29 in a 0-0 draw with Canada. Tack on the scoreless tie against Mexico and the duo have yet to give up a goal.
"They were great, especially there's been a little unfair criticism saying they were too young," goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. "They proved a lot of doubters wrong today and especially Matt stepping into a place like Azteca you would've thought he had 50 caps under his belt. The two of them were really good."
About those caps. The new dynamic duo had a mere six caps combined between them going into Tuesday's World Cup qualifier. But they played with uncanny composure and tenacity, defusing countless attacks from El Tri with timely interventions and key blocks.
And to think that Besler didn't even find out he was officially starting until 11:30 a.m. during the USMNT's gameday meeting after Clarence Goodson pulled himself out of consideration due to a hamstring strain suffered in Friday's qualifier against Costa Rica.
But as good as the Gonzalez-Besler combo played on Tuesday, Klinsmann was measured in his future projections.
"It gives us more options again looking forward into a very busy summer schedule." Klinsmann said. "I think now having Omar Gonzalez growing and maturing and Matt Besler growing and maturing we have now options to pull from."