At times over the last several months, there have been questions about who should be the starting right back for the U.S. men’s national team. Jurgen Klinsmann seemed to think Timmy Chandler was the best option before he was fired. More recently, Bruce Arena has been exploring his own options, including trying midfielder Graham Zusi out there.
But what has become increasingly clear is this: DeAndre Yedlin is the answer for the USMNT at right back and it’s not particularly close.
Of course, anyone watching Yedlin with Newcastle United lately has known that. He was again stellar on Saturday in a 1-0 win over the Wolverhampton Wanderers, using his blistering pace to cover ground all over the field. He was arguably the Magpies’ best player on the pitch, and it’s not surprising because he’s arguably been one of the best fullbacks in the Championship lately as Newcastle aims for promotion into the Premier League.
Yedlin’s speed has always been the bigger asset than his 1v1 defending ability, but his pace is no small thing: it allows him to bomb forward and commit to the attack in a way that doesn’t leave the area behind him vulnerable. As long as he can track back and close down space, he is free to stretch opposing back lines, too. His defending has improved leaps and bounds since his arrival with Newcastle United, as well.
For the Americans’ style of play, where fullbacks need to contribute on both sides of the ball, that makes Yedlin an ideal fit. We saw in an underwhelming 1-0 win over Jamaica just how much of an improvement Yedlin would be over the likes of Zusi, who got torched in Jamaica’s best chance of the night while not offering enough going forward.
What was painfully clear in the USMNT’s first two matches in the latest Arena era is that they lacked pace on the wings and they weren’t using the width of the field much. Yedlin is an easy fix for both of those problems, at least on the right side.
We probably won’t see Zusi as a serious option for right back again and the job is now pretty much Yedlin’s to lose. Chandler, despite how good he has been for Eintracht Frankfurt, has typically been pretty awful in a USMNT uniform. The likes of Keegan Rosenberry don’t seem to fit into Arena’s plans, and Arena seems to want to keep players in their natural positions – Zusi aside – rather than shuffling players as needed along the back line. That leaves Yedlin at the top of a list that probably includes Eric Lichaj, who also plays in the Championship, but hasn’t stood out like Yedlin.
There’s still a few weeks until the USMNT resume World Cup qualifying against Honduras, but if Yedlin keeps playing like he is now, there should be no suspense about who will start at right back. Yedlin looks like the best option by far and he’s earned it.