wherein DF travels to Deutschland for the 2006 world cup to follow the US men's national soccer team

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Berhalter to replace injured Gibbs on US WC roster

Come down off that ledge, USMNT fans. This isn't great news (okay, it's really bad news). But ultimately, I think this will work out OK. We've lost Cory Gibbs to a right knee injury, and now Gregg Berhalter is coming in to replace him. Let's sort through the issues one by one:

First, is the loss of Gibbs at left back devastating? Probably not. I think Bruce was planning on going with Pope and Gooch as CBs, and then possibly using Cory or Eddie Lewis at left back. However, now it's much more likely that if we break out a flat back four we'll see Eddie Lewis on the left flank. That's a bit risky, because he's not a natural defender, and he lacks size, but he is faster and better offensively than Gibbs, so that's a plus.

The real concern would be if we were looking to use a three-man backline. I think the Pope/Gooch/Gibbs combination would have been great there. Now that will look like Pope/Gooch/Berhalter (or Conrad), which I'm less thrilled with. But it's not a disaster, because

Second, Berhalter is a very solid defender. He played poorly against Germany in the 4-1 loss, and he's had more than his share of gaffes (I bet he got a really nice thank you note from Adriano for that gift of a goal he gave the Brazilian back in the 2003 Confeds Cup). He also captained his 2.Bundesliga side to promotion and scored the promotion-clinching goal in the process. So having him in there is no disaster. It does mean we're more likely to see Jimmy Conrad, though, since Bruce was clearly more enthused about him.

But finally, this is just awful news for Gibbs. According to ussoccer.com, he injured the knee at some unspecified time during the Morocco match, which may be good news, since the knock wasn't drastic enough to put him right out of the game. But while we don't know how serious the injury is, knee injuries are never great, and now Gibbs is looking injury-prone, which makes him less attractive to clubs. Of course, he's already signed for Charlton, so that's not an immediate concern, but still, it's a real disappointment. I hope the injury is minor and that he gets over it as soon as possible.

3 Comments:

Blogger Chris said...

I actually think the player to benefit the most from this, in terms of playing time, is Bocanegra. Like Gibbs, he's a left-footed central defender who can play on the outside. I think we're more likely to see Carlos before we see Jimmy Conrad on the field.

9:20 AM, May 26, 2006

 
Blogger mirarchi said...

I hope Chris is right about Boca being more likely to play over Conrad. If Pope or Gooch go down injured, then I think Boca should probably be first off the bench. Playing week in and week out in the EPL, he is more used to facing WC-caliber strikers than Conrad, and also Berhalter.

As Chris pointed out, Boca can also play left back in either a 4-4-2 or a 3-5-2. So if Bruce wants a big left-back of Gibbs' stature, Boca is available and pretty comparable, in my mind.

It really worries me, though, that our starting left back is likely to be Eddie Lewis, a player who plays as a fullback only with the nats. Any position on the back line seems to require a lot of understanding about positioning and marking, and I just don't see how Lewis can develop that understanding playing midfield every week for his club.

Ultimately, I think Frankie Hejduk, as much as he's maligned by fans, may have been our best option at left back. He knows the position, plays on the backline for his club, has done well in two previous world cups, leaves it all on the pitch, has terrific speed, and get up the flank (although his crossing often leaves something to be desired).

In any case, that's really a shame about Gibbs. We're deep enough in the back that the injury isn't going to hurt us too much, but as a center back, I think Gibbs is as good as anyone else on our roster -- tall, strong, fast, athletic, tactically sound, and a great man-marker.

Here's to hoping we can make it through our next two friendlies without any further injuries...

10:08 AM, May 26, 2006

 
Blogger DF said...

I think we're more likely to see Carlos before we see Jimmy Conrad on the field.

Hope you're right about this. Carlos may be able to function at LB, but from everything I read he got run over at that position when playing for Fulham--just wasn't fast enough to handle the EPL level speed. For this reason, I'd rather see Eddie Lewis in there. I know he lacks the experience of Boca, but he's got the wheels and ball skills and that seems more important in this setting. But it's a tough call.

Anyway, so much for Bruce's comment about having the most injury-free US squad ever...

10:26 AM, May 26, 2006

 

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