WASHINGTON — First Mexico. Now Germany.
Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez have lined up next to each other in the center of the US national team defense for two of the most impressive results in recent history: the 0-0 draw with Mexico in a World Cup qualifier at Azteca Stadium in March and Sunday’s 4-3 victory over Germany.
Their performance on Sunday, in particular, had coach Jurgen Klinsmann gushing.
“I think they both did absolutely well,” he said. “For us, it’s important to have those games and see them in our environment rather than in the club environment to make those judgments and to see who we have now in the backline in Kingston on Friday night.”
The USMNT takes on Jamaica in a crucial World Cup qualifier on Friday (9:30 pm ET, beIN Sport, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
Although the US eventually conceded two late goals against Germany, the backline held strong for the first 75 minutes or so, and rarely seemed bothered. The 6-foot-5 Gonzalez (at right, far right), who plies his trade for the LA Galaxy, handled many of the long, high balls, and Sporting KC's Besler (above left) — who was a second-half substitute vs. Belgium — directed the line’s positioning and intercepted more than his fair share of passes.
It was a far cry from recent performances that have seen the central defenders struggle for consistency. Gonzalez was at fault more than once in the midweek loss to Belgium. And Europe-based defenders Geoff Cameron and Clarence Goodson have come in for criticism. So considering the two major results backstopped by Besler and Gonzalez, is the MLS-based pair now the front-runners to get the start against Jamaica in the upcoming World Cup qualifier?
“That’s not my job to make any decisions like that,” Besler said. “All we can do as players when we get a chance is make the most of it. And right now the results that we’ve had with Mexico and Germany — I think we’ve done that.”
The goalkeeper behind Besler and Gonzalez, Tim Howard, seemed enthused by the backline, and suggested that the more they play together, the better they’ll be. Though he is not quite ready to see their names in pen on the squad list.
“I thought it was better today,” Howard told MLSsoccer.com. “It was tighter, more compact. They’re still young. They have to mature. But I think the back four has to play together. There’s no substitute for it. You have to play games.”
“We’re not thinking this is our backline for the next year,” Klinsmann said, “but I think we have a pretty good picture of what they are capable of doing, what they do with top class strikers, like [Christian] Benteke and [Romelu] Lukaku or Miroslav Klose, who is probably, in the past 10 years, the most consistent striker in the world. And they did awesome."