Johnson, Yedlin in line to start for U.S. at fullback; Chandler hurt
U.S. men's national team defender Timmy Chandler exited Eintracht Frankfurt's relegation playoff second leg with an apparent muscle injury, meaning Jurgen Klinsmann may need to go back to his Copa America Centenario preliminary roster for another fullback.
It's unclear how serious Chandler's injury, which occurred right as his side scored the goal that kept it in the Bundesliga for another season, is and whether it will prevent him from playing for the U.S. this summer. If he is forced to miss Copa America, Klinsmann has a finite set of options to choose from for his replacement. Klinsmann can only call upon players on his 40-man preliminary squad to replace an injured played up to 24 hours prior to the opening match against Colombia on June 3.
Klinsmann tabbed FC Dallas's Kellyn Acosta to join the U.S. for Wednesday's friendly against Ecuador in Frisco, Texas, but that measure is more so to fill out the squad, as Chandler was not slated to join the U.S. until Tuesday after a transatlantic flight, according to a U.S. Soccer spokesperson. Acosta is one of a few fullbacks on the preliminary roster (there's no law that Klinsmann needs to replace a fullback with a fullback, but one would think that he would replenish the depth at an already thin spot), along with Tim Ream, Eric Lichaj and Edgar Castillo.
Ream started at left back and scored his first international goal against Puerto Rico.
Regardless of Chandler's availability or potential replacement, Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin figure to be the starting fullbacks for the U.S. at Copa America, presuming they are fully fit. Klinsmann sung their praises on a Facebook Live Q&A with fans on Sunday, following the USA's 3-1 win over Puerto Rico that concluded the "transition camp" portion of the Copa America preparations.
"Obviously you saw over the last two years–especially since the World Cup in Brazil–we had our issues on both right back and left back positions," Klinsmann said. "Right now we have a very good option coming through the ranks with DeAndre Yedlin, who [Sunday] against Puerto Rico played a good game, breaking through at Sunderland as a right back but still learning the position in a tactical way in terms of the awareness, what happens behind him if he goes forward and so on. DeAndre is, for us, also always an option maybe to bring in as a winger, but right now we hope that he is going into the Copa America as a right back with a lot of confidence.
"Fabian on the other side can play left winger, right winger, right back–and I believe that he was one of the best right backs in the World Cup in Brazil–but he also can play left back. Since DaMarcus Beasley obviously decided to hang up his boots with the national team ... there is a position there in the left back position that we haven't found the perfect solution yet. We hope obviously for some players to step it up more and more in the future time, but right now as of today it's a little bit difficult for us. That's where we see [Johnson] probably coming into Copa America; we see Fabian as our solution as a left back position, because we have more options in midfield to fill the roles. We are loaded I think at midfield, and we have a bit of a need at the left back position, and that's why I put him into the Copa America roster as a defender."