It’s been the most debatable position for the US national team for years: left back.
Since the 2006 World Cup, the left back position has seen a revolving roster of players, including Eddie Lewis, Bobby Convey, Jonathan Bornstein, Jonathan Spector, Carlos Bocanegra, Heath Pearce and Eric Lichaj.
Edgar Castillo, the latest southpaw penciled into the spot, has struggled in possession and for now seems too slight to deal with a striker with any size. At this point Pearce is probably the best choice, but injuries have hampered his chances to prove it lately, and he's spent the last two years playing in other spots along the backline anyway.
There are also Hoffenheim’s mysterious Fabian Johnson — a midfielder by trade who's filled in at left back periodically — and kids like Sean Cunningham and Greg Garza.
But there are other options who might do what Klinsmann appears to want — that is, hold your position, defend energetically, apply high pressure when appropriate and join the attack only occasionally.
These other options may not be “overtalented” or excite the Twitterati, but considering the performances of recent US left backs, it can’t hurt to give them a look.
Todd Dunivant, LA Galaxy. Consistent, intelligent and a two-time MLS Cup winner, the 30-year-old is in great form manning the flank of MLS’ best defense. He’s not missed a minute of action this season and has four assists to his name, his most since he posted six in 2003. He's probably the favorite among the "other options" right now, yet he has not had even a sniff from the US team since 2006.
Chris Wingert, Real Salt Lake. He has struggled with a few injuries since earning his only international cap in January 2009. But when the 29-year-old is healthy and in form, he has the ability to keep attackers in check, make tidy passes and generally play mistake-free soccer.
Josh Gardner, Columbus Crew. He's athletic, can crush the occasional freekick, and likes jumping into the attack (two goals, two assists this year). The 29-year-old is coming to the position late — he was a midfielder until 2010 — but looks to be catching on quickly. “Honestly, I think if maybe I had started at left back early on in my career, it might have turned out a little bit differently; maybe national team,” he told MLSsoccer.com back in June.
Gabriel Farfan, Philadelphia Union. The 23-year-old has a midfielder’s engine and a wingback’s defensive sensibility. Could he do it at the international level? Unsure at this point, but he’s improving each time he gets the nod from Peter Nowak.
Marvell Wynne, Colorado Rapids. Sure, he’s only ever played on the right side or in the middle. But considering the 25-year-old’s tool set — speed, work-rate, defensive tenacity — and his struggles with crossing regardless of where he is, why not put him on the left, tell him to keep it simple and see what happens?