With Yedlin hurt, ranking Bruce Arena's best USMNT options at right back
Last week’s news of DeAndre Yedlin’s hamstring injury was surely disconcerting for U.S. men’s national team fans, who couldn’t be blamed for scurrying to their calendars and overlaying the timetable for his return against the upcoming World Cup qualifying schedule.
The United States gets back into the chase for Russia 2018 on Sept. 1 as Costa Rica comes calling at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. Manager Bruce Arena and his men then travel for a match in Honduras four nights later.
Yedlin could be ready in time; the original prognosis was for two to three weeks away. Then again, if he’s not fully fit, back into the Newcastle lineup and performing at top rev, Arena will have a tough choice.
He can scarcely afford to take chances. Safe arrival into next year’s World Cup is anything but assured and still largely dependent on banking wins at home, including the toughie ahead in New Jersey.
Costa Rica sits second in the final round, six-team group, one spot ahead of Arena’s squad.
Suffice to say, the United States’ best option is a healthy, in-form Yedlin. The question becomes: Will Arena have that option? Here are the top five alternatives at his spot if the Newcastle man isn’t 100 percent fit for the fight.
5. Kellyn Acosta
As a “break glass in case of emergency” options go, this isn’t a bad one. Acosta may not have had the best Gold Cup, but as a central-midfield pairing with Michael Bradley he’s still a viable option, and a young player on the rise. That’s still his best position. And gone are the days when broadcasters are trying to make FC Dallas’ box-to-box midfielder an outside back.
On the other hand, he’s shown he can handle the spot; Acosta has started at fullback for the national team before. And he has performed in two MLS All-Star games as an outside back.
Plus, he seems to have Arena’s trust, which is clearly important.
4. Timothy Chandler
This guy is and has been the big mystery man along the U.S. back line for some time. His performance for Eintracht Frankfurt always seem worthy of ongoing national-team attention. Then he goes to the national team and, well, it’s just never anything to shout about.
In fact, subpar performance in the U.S. shirt is more or less the norm.
Combine all that with this worrying fact: he’s yet to be in a camp under Arena, who dotes on team chemistry the way a momma bear dotes on her cubs.
Given all that, and given Chandler’s spotty history with the national team – his mindset always looks and feels too much like indifference – this wouldn’t seem to be a likely option.