MEXICO CITY -- If Monday’s training was any indication – and most signs suggest that it is – U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann is getting set to test a green pair of center backs with a baptism of fire at El Azteca on Wednesday.
Throughout training Monday, Klinsmann paired new Stoke City acquisition Geoff Cameron with want-away Rangers midfielder Maurice Edu at center back. It was the first time Edu could remember playing much of the position since the Olympics in 2008, but the former Toronto FC standout said he nevertheless feels comfortable there.
“I haven’t played there in a while, but it’s a process,” Edu said after the light training in Mexico City. “But I think if I get a few more trainings under my belt it should be all right.”
Edu did start at center back in a friendly against Poland in October 2010, but that was the last time he's played the position at the international level.
Center back is already a position of need for the national team, but the shortage has been made more acute by the absence of regulars Clarence Goodson, Carlos Bocanegra, and Oguchi Onyewu, who were all left with their clubs in Europe for this one-off FIFA date. That leaves Klinsmann with an inexperienced back line, no matter who he chooses to face El Tri on Wednesday night.
“Obviously it’s a big game and playing against a quality side, but as long as everyone communicates well and we just guide each other through the process it should be all right,” Edu said. “[Klinsmann] said he wanted to try me out there today in training, in a partnership with Geoff. And then we’ll probably work on it a little bit more tomorrow in practice, and see how it goes.”
Edu recognizes the dangers of making mistakes in the back, and that he will be more limited than in his usual role at defensive midfield. But Klinsmann has often used Edu in a stay-at-home spot above the central defenders, so the shift a bit further back won’t come as such a huge shock.
“I think the fact that you’re the last line - in midfield you have defenders behind you if you make a mistake, whereas on the back line if you make a mistake then they’re in on goal,” he said. “You have to have everything in tune and focus all the time.”
Edu was flanked Monday by Fabian Johnson on the left and Michael Orozco on the right, alongside former Dynamo man Cameron. As for his newly minted partnership with the newest Stoke City Potter, Edu described the duo in simple terms.
“I’m smaller, he’s bigger; I’m faster, he’s slower,” the rumored Ipswich Town target said. “But I think we compliment each other pretty well back there, in that we’ve both played midfield at times in our careers. We have that little bit of comfort on the ball and like to play out of the back a little bit more.”
Under fire Wednesday night at El Azteca, it will be interesting to see how long that comfort zone lasts.
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