What was once a stopgap measure now appears to be the status quo for Jurgen Klinsmann and the US national team, as the head coach declared his allegiance to DaMarcus Beasley and Fabian Johnson on the left flank in a discussion of his roster for next month's World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico.
“I think 'Beas' is set in the left back role, and Fabian is set in the left winger role, for right now,” said Klinsmann in a media conference call on Thursday.
Six months ago Beasley, an attacking-minded left winger for most of his career, was pressed into service at left back for the USA's pressure-packed qualifiers against these same opponents due to injuries elsewhere in the player pool.
Beasley's start in the snow-filled 1-0 win over Costa Rica in Commerce City, Colo., on March 22 was his first USMNT appearance in defense in nearly four years, dating back to a fairly disastrous outing in a 3-1 loss at Costa Rica in the last World Cup cycle. But the veteran held his own against Los Ticos in Colorado and helped the Yanks notch a clean sheet against Mexico at Estadio Azteca four days later, earning Klinsmann's trust – and it seems that the coach has seen nothing since then to make him change the situation.
Johnson previously seemed to be the incumbent at left back and played the position in the US' recent 4-3 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina earlier this month. Yet on balance the versatile German-American has impressed his national-team manager more in a midfield role, where he routinely pinches centrally to bring Beasley into the attack on the overlap.
“He played left back in Bosnia because DaMarcus Beasley was not there,” explained Klinsmann with regards to Johnson. “It's good to know he can play even on the other side, he can play right wing or right back, that gives us always some options to pull if needed. Right now we see him very, very strong on the left wing in midfield, and 'Beaz' behind him.”
Asked about other full backs in the US pool, Klinsmann maintained that veteran right back Steve Cherundolo remains in contention for a place on the World Cup roster despite a string of knee troubles. And he offered mild praise for Eric Lichaj, who has carved out regular playing time at English club Nottingham Forest but has yet to receive a callup since Klinsmann replaced Bob Bradley two years ago.
“Now is not the time to experiment,” he said of Lichaj, “but we observe him, we watch him, we know he is back in the swing.”
Beasley remains more of an out-and-out winger with his club, Liga MX side Puebla, and has given USMNT fans some anxious moments when forced to defend for long periods. Yet his ability to get forward, paired with his veteran leadership, seems to fit into Klinsmann's larger goal of a more aggressive mindset and tactics, even in a daunting scenario like next week's trip to Costa Rica, where the Yanks have yet to win a World Cup qualifier in eight tries.
“Obviously we changed a couple of things over the last two years, where we try to kind of go forward – even after a 1-0 lead, we want to score the second one, we don't want to sit back and defend,” said the coach on Thursday. “I think we have the quality and the mindset to be confident enough to say we are going to go there [to Costa Rica] for three points. This is what we are trying to build.”