Bruce Arena has another lineup decision to make. Centerback John Brooks had to exit Friday's win over Honduras, apparently due to the effects of a sinus infection he was battling. Now that sinus infection has led to his not making the trip with the team to Panama for their next World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.
Brooks' absence is going to force a serious shake-up to the backline. What will Arena do to sort out the heart of his defense?
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Cameron started at right back on Friday due to injuries at the position while Omar Gonzalez took his usual centerback spot. But the exit of Brooks means Cameron may need to move back into the centerback role. After all, it was fine having one backup (Gonzalez) with one first-choice starter (Brooks) start vs. Honduras. But keeping Cameron at right back and putting two backup centerbacks in the middle vs. Panama doesn't seem to be ideal.
He might be the best centerback option the Americans have behind Brooks and Cameron. He was the weakest link of a backline that, if we're being real honest, was a bit fortunate that Honduras' attacking efforts were so haphazard, but at his best, he's an obvious choice to reprise the centerback role. His height advantage should help the USMNT deal with crosses and set pieces, and he's one of the most experienced defensive options when it comes to having played in World Cup qualifiers.
He came on for Brooks on Friday, which makes him a logical choice to take over for Brooks from the start on Tuesday. Arena may opt to change as little as possible from his lineup that walloped Honduras -- that would mean keeping Cameron at right back and letting Ream reprise the role he filled from Brooks' exit. Ream did a respectable job as a substitute on Friday, although he didn't have much of an opportunity to stand out either way.
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Could Arena give the 23-year-old newcomer a shot? It may not be likely, but it's definitely possible. Zimmerman only made his USMNT debut in January, but FC Dallas centerback impressed, earning praise from Arena. He's been part of arguably MLS's best centerback pairing with Matt Hedges and he has all the right attributes of a dominant centerback.
While it seems a little risky for Arena to count on Zimmerman for such a crucial World Cup qualifier, a robust 6-0 win over Honduras on Friday eases some of the pressure the USMNT was under.
A late addition to the USMNT roster, it looks unlikely Besler will get the nod, but he has been a pretty solid, dependable backup for the Americans over the years. He could slot into either centerback spot or, Jurgen Klinsmann has even used him as a left back on more than one occasion, which didn't go too badly. Besler is a reasonable, but unlikely option.
Why mess with what works? Gonzalez and Cameron both did not have pristine games vs. Honduras, but they've been in these matches before and Arena has preached keeping players in familiar roles as a focus for him. It's hard to argue with that, and a centerback pairing of Gonzalez and Cameron checks those boxes.
The question becomes, who will be put at right back with Cameron vacating that role? Again, we can guess that Arena will stick to what worked on Friday and fill right back with Graham Zusi, who subbed in for Cameron in the second half. The players who featured in the 6-0 drubbing of Honduras have to be flying high with confidence, and they've all got momentum on their side now.