USMNT: Eric Lichaj happy to return to fold, must now face task of unseating Brad Evans at right back
GLASGOW, Scotland – It had been more than two years since Eric Lichaj had last pulled on a US national team jersey, but the defender is finally back in Jurgen Klinsmann’s thoughts.
Lichaj’s last appearance for the national team came in the 2011 Gold Cup final defeat to Mexico, but having found consistent gametime at Nottingham Forest this season after moving from Aston Villa on a free transfer in the summer, he was given an opportunity to replicate his club form for the US as a second half substitute in the 0-0 draw with Scotland on Friday.
“It’s been a long time since I was in the set-up,” Lichaj told reporters at Hampden Park. “Hopefully I’ll get more time with the team in the future and show what I can do.”
As a natural fullback, Lichaj is an interesting option for the US as preparations for next summer’s World Cup come to a head, but with Brad Evans currently Klinsmann’s first-choice player in that position the Forest defender has some work to do if he is to secure a starting spot.
“He’s done really well in that position and it’ll be tough to move him from there,” Lichaj said of Evans. “He’s got the USA qualified for the World Cup playing there with the guys, and that’s something I didn’t have the chance to do.
“I’d never met him before coming into the team this week, but he’s a nice guy and we get on well. Competition just ups everybody’s game and that’s something I won’t shy away from.”
Under Forest manager Billy Davies this season, Lichaj has started 13 of 15 games and has been given the freedom to surge up the right flank, underlining his attacking threat.
“Maybe it helped me that I play a certain style that works over here,” Lichaj said. “I’d say I’m more aggressive and want to be pressing things all the time and play at 100 miles per hour. Klinsmann must like that style because he’s called me into the camp and given me a chance.”
Klinsmann admitted that while Evans has made the right back position his own in 2013 there is an opportunity for Lichaj to prove himself as an able deputy.
“We wanted to give Eric a chance, and personally I wanted to see him,” explained the German coach. “It’s one thing seeing his games for Forest and it’s another thing seeing him as part of this group. We wanted to see how he would fit in.
“Our right back is Brad Evans, he has that position locked down. But behind Brad there is some space. We have tried some different people out there, [Geoff] Cameron has played that role, [Michael] Orozco can play there and we’ll see what happens with Steve Cherundolo over the next couple of months. So with that in mind it was important to bring Eric into the group. He hasn’t been here under my guidance but he’s fitted in well.”