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Building a World Cup roster - A look at the U.S. center back depth chart

As we approach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Goal's Ives Galarcep takes a look at each position battle on the United States national team.

Jurgen Klinsmann's decision to commit to a new generation of central defenders a year ago led to some new faces taking over the position, but also left the pool with a lack of experience.

Now, on the brink of the World Cup, there is a very real likelihood that the U.S. national team center back pool will have zero World Cup experience heading into this summer's tournament in Brazil.

Klinsmann has done his part to try and force-feed some experience to his preferred tandem of Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez, which showed some promise during World Cup qualifying. Unfortunately, some rocky outings from Gonzalez in more recent national team appearances have raised questions about whether the Besler-Gonzalez tandem is ready for the job of containing a World Cup group featuring the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Miroslav Klose.

The center back pool isn't completely without experienced options. Clarence Goodson didn't play in the 2010 World Cup, but he was part of the team, and he has shown more consistency in big matches than Gonzalez. The 31-year-old San Jose Earthquakes defender is poised to grab a starting role if Gonzalez continues to falter.

Two players who have come on strong of late are John Brooks and Tim Ream, who should both have a chance to compete for a roster spot when the U.S. pre-World Cup training camp convenes at Stanford University later this month.

Klinsmann's central defender options also include a pair of players currently preferred at other positions. Geoff Cameron is competing for the starting right back position, but it can be argued that he is also one of Klinsmann's best center back options. Midfielder Maurice Edu also has experience in central defense, and he just might be deputized into a defensive role if other players don't impress Klinsmann in training camp.

So who are the top U.S. national team center back options as we head toward the 2014 World Cup? Here are the central defenders Klinsmann has in the frame:

Matt Besler - Sporting Kansas City

A sharp passer with the speed and organizing skills to lead the line, Besler has established himself as the best central defender in the pool and an indispensable part of Jurgen Klinsmann's back line. Has had some hiccups in 2014, but after a strong 2013, Besler has a chance to break out at the World Cup.

 

Omar Gonzalez - LA Galaxy

At 6-foot-5, Gonzalez is a dominant force in the middle when he is at his best. The big issue is his penchant for mistakes over the past six months, which has suddenly made his lock on a starting spot a less assured position. Klinsmann has given the Gonzalez-Besler tandem a lot of games together, so the job remains Gonzalez's to lose heading into training camp.
 

Clarence Goodson - San Jose Earthquakes

The 31-year-old veteran has played in several important matches over the past year and has a firm hold on the No. 3 spot in the depth chart. He combines good size (6-foot-4) with underrated passing ability, Goodson can be partnered with Besler or Gonzalez. His experience gives him an edge over some of the younger options in the pool, and he is in the best position to grab a starting spot if Gonzalez falters.

John Brooks - Hertha Berlin

A big (6-foot-4) and technical central defender, Brooks isn't as physically-imposing as Gonzalez, and his lack of experience makes him dependent on having a center back partner who can organize, but at 21, he represents the future of the position.

Tim Ream - Bolton Wanderers

Away from the national team pixture for more than two and a half years, Ream has propelled himself back into the conversation on the strength of an outstanding season at Bolton. A left-footed center back capable of playing multiple positions, Ream is arguably the best passer in the central defender pool, which makes him a very intriguing option for Klinsmann.



Oguchi Onyewu - Sheffield Wednesday

The only player on this list to actually have played in a World Cup before, Onyewu boasts unmatched experience, but his form remains a question mark. Another physically-imposing central defender, Onyewu is at least a step slower than he was in his national team peak from 2006 to 2009, but a promising season at Sheffield Wednesday has him on the radar again.



Michael Orozco - Puebla

The Puebla defender is coming off a season that saw him be a regular starter in Liga MX, and he has shown a penchant for making big plays as a sub off the bench for the national team. A smaller, more technical center back option, Orozco would be higher on the list if not for a late-season hamstring injury that has put his availability for the pre-World Cup camp in question.


Matt Hedges - FC Dallas

Though he isn't a realistic option for the 2014 World Cup, Hedges has put things together this season with FC Dallas, and has been, arguably, the best central defender in MLS through the first quarter of the MLS season. He boasts good size and strong aerial ability to go with good ball-handling skills. At 24, Hedges should eventually earn a look with the national team.



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