Inexperienced US back line heads to World Cup

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STANFORD, Calif. (AP) - Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron might hear it from every angle if they were paying any attention or had a moment’s spare time. They could be reminded every day that this is the first time since 1990 the U.S. heads to a World Cup with no central defenders having played previous minutes in soccer’s showcase event.

And that makes an already daunting task in Group G much more challenging for the Americans, who face Ghana, Portugal and Germany next month in Brazil.

The competition for spots on the Americans’ back line is fierce, leaving no time to analyze the group’s inexperience.

“For us, there’s nothing we can do about it,” Besler said before Sunday’s training at Stanford Stadium. “We can’t change the fact that we’ve never experienced a World Cup. We’re looking at it as a great opportunity. We’ve never done it before but everyone is excited and really hungry to prove that we belong here and that we can do well.”

Nobody knows how the foursome will look for the team’s World Cup opener June 16 against Ghana in Natal, yet coach Jurgen Klinsmann will get a glimpse during an exhibition against Azerbaijan on Tuesday night at Candlestick Park. He has several choices for each defensive spot.

If there are concerns with Omar Gonzalez, who tweaked his left knee during a May 3 game with the Los Angeles Galaxy against Colorado, Klinsmann might go with Cameron in the middle alongside Besler. Gonzalez has since returned to full training.

“I think the competition is healthy, and it’s definitely alive and well here,” Gonzalez said. “Before I got injured, I was probably the fittest I’ve been in a very long time.”

Cameron plays right back for Stoke in the Premier League but insists he only needs a couple of reps at center back in practice, scrimmages or exhibitions to find a groove again.

“When you’re playing against Man United, Chelsea, Everton, Tottenham, you’re playing all the big boys every single weekend against the best competition, there’s no room for mental errors, there’s no complaining about how tired you are or this or that because the games come so quick,” Cameron said. “For me, it was a learning process the first year. As the second year comes, you get more comfortable, you’re confident going into the other stadiums.”

Besler, the 27-year-old Sporting Kansas City star who was the 2012 MLS Defender of the Year, has played in the middle with both Cameron and Gonzalez.

Cameron and Besler very well could start in the center back spots for the opener. Fabian Johnson or Timmy Chandler might play right back, though Johnson said he has seen regular time there.

“I played right back in all the scrimmages so I’m ready for this position,” Johnson said Sunday.

DaMarcus Beasley could be on the left as he looks to become the first American to play in four World Cups.

“It is different playing with different guys. Everyone has different styles,” Besler said. “I think as a team we play the same but when you have different guys back there you have to make little adjustments depending on who’s back there. But for me I have experience with both. I’ve played in World Cup qualifiers with Geoff, with Omar. I feel comfortable with anyone, really.”

If midfielder Jermaine Jones is suspended at some point for accumulation of yellow cards, Klinsmann might call upon Johnson in the defensive midfield.

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