Carlos Bocanegra has been the United States Men’s National Team’s most consistent defender for the last half-decade. However, Bocanegra turned 33 years old last month, and will be 35 years old by the time the 2014 World Cup begins in Brazil.
While Bocanegra still seems to be defying father time as his consistent performances with the USMNT this summer proved, eventually the team will need to begin looking at other options, whether it is during World Cup qualifying, or after the tournament himself.
Here is a look at ten possible candidates to replace him as the stalwart at the heart of the U.S. defense.
The 24 year-old has had a busy year with a January transfer to English Premier League side Bolton coming after another solid MLS season. With Bolton, Ream picked up 13 Premier League starts and some valuable experience.
Many pundits are also full of praise for Ream’s ability to possess the ball out of the back, something a bit rare for U.S. defenders and a talent Jurgen Klinsmann has been working hard to integrate into the team.
The downside, of-course, is that with Ream in the lineup, Bolton’s season continued to slide and they were regulated to the English Championship.
Ream has also struggled at times when he has been called into the national side as evidenced by his performance against Ecuador in the October friendlies and some shaky performances last summer at the Gold Cup.
Still, Ream is only 24 and plays a position in which many players don’t hit their peak until their late 20’s.
The 25 year-old FC Dallas defender has had an up-and-down year. After a strong MLS season in 2010, John appeared headed for Blackburn in August of 2011 before the deal fell through.
John then secured a loan move to storied English side West Ham United in January, but could not break into the lineup and did not make a single appearance for the club.
West Ham decided not to pick up the option to make John’s move permanent at the end of the season and John is now back with FC Dallas where he has made 13 league starts this season.
John is also one of many American players eligible to play for multiple nations as John is also eligible to represent Greece.
Cameron appears to Jurgen Klinsmann’s latest favorite to fill at least one of the center back spots of the future after receiving call-ups for the last three USMNT camps.
Pundits praise Cameron’s ability to build out of the back and Cameron recently enjoyed a solid MLS season, helping lead the Houston Dynamo to a runner-up finish in the league.
His recent USMNT appearances have been a mixed bag. After looking good in the first January friendly against Venezuela, he struggled against Panama in the second friendly and was sent off for taking down Blas Perez on a breakaway.
Cameron was called-up for the Italy friendly in February, but went unused.
In the recent set of internationals, Cameron gave-up the only goal against in the Scotland friendly when he bungled the ball into his own net, but then looked better as a second-half substitute in the Guatemala World Cup qualifier.
The most likely to replace Carlos Bocanegra along the USMNT backline, and perhaps even partner Bocanegra in the 2014 World Cup has to be Clarence Goodson.
Goodson is just coming into his best form and looked solid for the U.S. in its February win against Italy. Goodson was also probably the most consistent U.S. defender against Canada in the June friendly.
The only issue with Goodson is that he recently turned 30 meaning that while he will probably still be in good form for 2014, his longevity after the World Cup will be questionable.
Zak Whitbread, a name unknown to many USMNT fans, has seemed at times to be the perfect solution for the U.S.’ center back problems.
He has top-notch club experience having started 18 games for Norwich City in the English Premier League this past season.
However, injuries have continued to get in the way of Whitbread’s international career. He was called up for the March friendlies in 2011 by Bob Bradley, but could not participate in the camp due to injury.
This past season with Norwich, he had very strong form early in the year before suffering through a number of injuries which limited his participation in the second half of their season.
In a move that certainly won’t help any international ambitions Whitbread may have is the fact that he was recently dropped by Norwich City when they chose not to renew his contract.
At 23 years of age, Omar Gonzalez has enjoyed an almost meteoric rise to his career. In 2009, he was named MLS Rookie of the Year. That was followed up in 2010 by being named to the MLS All-Star team only to be followed up in 2011 by winning the MLS Cup with his club the LA Galaxy and being named the 2011 MLS Defender of the Year.
In January of this year, Gonzalez received a call-up by Jurgen Klinsmann to attend the January camp, but withdrew from the roster to accept a loan to FC Nuremberg in the Bundesliga.
However, in his first training session with Nuremberg, he was involved in a collision with Timothy Chandler, and Gonzalez tore his ACL.
Although many USMNT fans might not know it, 22 year-old Hertha Berlin defender Alfredo Morales has already been called into the national team squad on two separate occasions by Jurgen Klinsmann.
While he has primarily been used by his club as a defensive midfielder and right back, according to Yanks Abroad reporter Brian Sciaretta, he can also play center back.
Hopefully, he gets cap-tied to the U.S. relatively soon because he is eligible to play for Peru, Germany and the United States.
A long-time contributor with the U.S.’ U-20 team with 30 caps at that level, Agbossoumonde received his first senior team cap in a friendly against South Africa in November of 2010.
Although he is only 20, one strike against Agbossounmonde may be that in only a few short years as a professional he has seen loan stints in the Portuguese League, the Swedish League and Bundesliga 2 without being signed on a permanent deal.
He currently plays for the Carolina RailHawks in the North American Soccer League.
Spector has fallen off the radar of most USMNT fans over the last year as Jurgen Klinsmann has not shown the same favor towards Spector that former manager Bob Bradley did.
However, Spector quietly enjoyed a solid season with Birmingham City in the English Championship this past year and although usually deployed as a right back, can also play in the midfield and at center back.
Someone who has never been fleet of foot, Spector may be near that point in his career where a move to center back might make sense, much like Carlos Bocanegra made the move from left back as he grew older.
Who’s your pick?
In addition to the names list here, there are some other options out there including, among others, Ike Opara, Perry Kitchen, Matt Hedges, Andrew Wenger and Ryan Miller.
Who would be your replacement for Carlos Bocanegra once he ends his consistently solid career with the Nats?
John D. Halloran