COLUMBUS, Ohio – US men’s national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann defended his lineup choices on Monday in the wake of Friday's stinging World Cup qualifying loss at Guatemala.
At Monday’s press conference in Columbus ahead of the USMNT’s rematch on Tuesday (7 pm ET; ESPN2, UniMás, UDN), Klinsmann was asked if he was still experimenting with tactics, formations and player positioning. He scoffed at the idea.
“In World Cup qualifying, you’re not experimenting with anything,” he said. “We played the best [starting] 11 that we think, in that moment, is the best 11 and what we think, in that moment, also is their best position.”
In Friday’s 2-0 loss in Guatemala City, Klinsmann used Sunderland’s DeAndre Yedlin at right wing and Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron at right fullback.
He said he understands questions about their positions, but doesn’t agree that they were deployed incorrectly.
“I appreciate the discussion when you say, ‘Maybe Yedlin should play right back,’ or, ‘Geoff Cameron should play center back,’ but it would be also helpful if you look back a second to where they play with their clubs and also their history with the US national team,” he said. “I’m not playing anybody out of position.”
According to whoscored.com, Yedlin has played on the wing in only two of his 15 appearances for Sunderland this season. Both of those came in conjunction with three-man defensive lines behind him.
In an interview with Fox Sports 1, Yedlin also said he preferred playing fullback.
“If I could only play one, honestly, I think right back is my favorite position,” he told Alexi Lalas. “I think attacking in that position is very fun.”
Right fullback is even more rare among Cameron’s 20 Stoke appearances this season. He's made 13 starts in central defense, four as a defensive midfielder and only two on the right for the English Premier League club.
Two years ago, Klinsmann himself said Cameron was a center back.
“[I’ve said] it often over the last three years,” Klinsmann told reporters at the time. “I always saw Geoff as a center back first of all.”
For his part, Cameron just wants to see the field.
“It doesn’t really matter what position I’ll be playing – hopefully I’ll be playing,” he said. “As long as I leave it all out on the field, I’ll be happy.”
Klinsmann says versatility is key, and pointed to Borussia Monchengladbach’s Fabian Johnson as another example of a player who can play multiple positions for the USMNT.
“I know Geoff Cameron can play right back and center back; I know Yedlin can play right winger and right back,” Klinsmann said. “This is a good thing for us to have, because we try to put the pieces together the best possible that they fit. So having that option with certain players – Fabian Johnson as a fullback or a midfielder, where he does the same thing, transitioning in either position with his club team – is good for us.
“So I’m not playing anyone out of position.”