Now that Klinsmann has named his 23 man roster, this gets easier from my standpoint to understand how he feels. As for how I feel, that will always conflict with what he thinks even when the results are as pretty as the Scotland win.
When it comes to center backs, the top two isn't much of a question. The future and the backups are much more in question. For Jurgen Klinsmann, the need is for more of a passer than the brute forces of center back past. In fact, due to the changes in strikers tendencies from target men to false nines, the quality center back may be a thing of the past. Honestly, in the comments, post your top five center backs in the world. I don't know if I can do it. I'll try to do it for the United States.
1. Carlos Bocanegra, 33, Rangers (Scotland), 35
There is no reason why he should be number one here except his skills haven't diminished as much as we expected and no one has emerged. He is never going to be able to run with the fastest of forwards, and doesn't possess the raw physicality of Oguchi Onyewu. What Bocanegra brings to the table is loads of experience, great fitness, and plenty of savvy, that masks the age that he wears on his bones. As it stands, he'll be around for 2014, and that could be a relief or a tragedy.
2. Oguchi Onyewu, 30, Sporting (Portugal), 32
If it weren't for injuries, the would be no question: this is our best center back. of course, there have been injuries so we made due with Jay DeMerit who solidly replaced Onyewu for the World Cup after lining up beside him in 2009. Then against Scotland, we used Geoff Cameron who shouldered a ball into his own net, and of all the complaints about Onyewu, aerial marking will never be one. In fact, since his move to Sporting Lisbon, he has shown himself to be much more than the aerial and physical threat. He has shown improved ball skills and of course the ability to head balls harder than most men kick them. For the US to be successful, he must be healthy and we must find another man to replace him when he gets old.
3. Omar Gonzalez, 23, LA Galaxy, 25
He is out with a major knee injury. Will he be back in time for 2014, and more importantly, in form by then? If he is, then he is by far our third best option. He is miles ahead of Cameron who is new to the position, tougher than Goodson, and younger than everyone to boot. Let's just hope he hasn't found the Stuart Holden bug, and ends up being someone who is plagued by injuries.
4. Geoff Cameron, 26, Houston Dynamo, 28
Here is one promotion due to Klinsmann's liking. I would put him farther down based both on center back experience and current form but Klinsmann certainly likes him. He is one of the better passers of this group, so if he finds his form and we become a second version of Barcelona using Howard as a sweeper, then he's a useful piece. At some time, reality will mandate that other people pass him by.
5. Tim Ream, 24, Bolton Wanderers (Eng. Championship), 26
And on the opposite side of the spectrum, here is a guy who Klinsmann may not like and with some reason. He was awful last year for club and country. This year, he was a key cog in Bolton's march to relegation. Ok, that doesn't sound good, but that team was dead before Ream arrived and they didn't look worse going with him in either defense or central midfield. Confidence and Rafa Marquez were all that was holding him back; now it seems that he just needs to get back on the radar.
6. Zak Whitbread, 28,
Norwich City (EPL), 30
He is always hurt. When he is not, he is a solid starting center back for a Premier League squad. He may be better than everyone above him, but if he can't stay on a field, who will care? Norwich City just released him from his contract, and he could be a bargain given he stays healthy. That is a huge risk.
7. Clarence Goodson, 30, Brøndby (Denmark), 32
He's reliable, he's boring, and he goes to ground more times than an El Clasico. What physicality Onyewu possesses he must have partially stolen from Goodson, so much that we forget that the two of them are the same age.
8. Michael Parkhurst, 28, Nordsjælland (Denmark), 30
He plays right back for his club, which makes him sort of a poor man's Bocanegra. He isn't exactly a world-beater but he possesses none of the problems of the above four. He isn't hurt, doesn't lack for confidence, and doesn't fall over in a brisk wind. He will outlast everyone and perhaps never start for us. That's noble in a way.
Danny Williams, 23, Hoffenheim, 25
There are no sleepers in the center back pool, and that is why this gets kind of weird. In reality, looking at our current roster, this is where Danny Williams ends up in 2015. He plays center back for Hoffenheim and with the experience at midfield is also the kind of passer out of the back we are looking for. Legitimately, if this connection is made by Klinsmann, why not try him at by far our weakest position for the future? (Yes, including forward)
Andrew Wenger, 21, Montreal, 23
It's unfair to call anyone a sleeper from the MLS, because most of our depth is MLS bred. The depth here is going to be youthful, because good center backs aren't really a cheap commodity anymore. Hence the overseas move for a downturning Tim Ream, George John's trial in England, and Omar Gonzalez's trial in Germany. However, our u-23 Center backs have been struggling all over the place for club and country the past year, so I can't give any of them a shout out.
Wenger is my outside the box choice, since I assume Montreal will continue to play him as a forward. I think his career projects better as a defender, but I'm not his coach and luckily will have no part in destroying his professional development by benching him for old men who can help my team get a wild-card in the Eastern Conference.
This is where it gets scary. When is Onyewu done, and where are his replacements at that moment. I think Bocanegra stays around through 2014 and Onyewu as well. After that, Gonzalez and Ream have to be the one's who step forward although by then Cameron may be learned enough in the ways of a center back to be on their level. After that group, there is a giant hole left by the U-23's, and veteran leadership is nowhere to be found. Although at this point, how good does everyone think Omar Gonzalez is? Just look at Los Angeles without him.