Unexpected: You Want Pearce In RSA

Will #11 ride again in South Africa? (Pearce wore 12 in 2008)

I was going over last week’s jumble polls and the results from the leftback poll jumped out at me so I thought I would post a follow-up today.

Turns out America, or TSG readers at the least, wants Heath Pearce as their starting leftback in South Africa.

Plausibility factor right now in our opinion? 25% with the bulk of the other percentage points going to Carlos Bocanegra.

As a reminder, Pearce started against England at Wembley in the 2008 affair.

I thought Boca would easily win the day here.

Somewhat surprising...

36 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Rick on 2010/03/25 at 1:49 PM

    I missed this poll, but I too would have voted for Pearce. I’d rather see Bocanegra and DeMerit in the center. Heath doesn’t seem to get props for his play from most pundits, but isn’t he pretty solid?


  2. Posted by Tripp on 2010/03/25 at 2:18 PM

    It maybe interesting to remove Spector from contention in this poll and see where the votes for him go.


  3. I know he’s right-footed, but I’m surprised Spector didn’t get more respect. I think if you were to ask who the two best American fullbacks are Spector and Dolo would win, so if Spector is proving every week in the EPL that he can be a left back, why not have your two best fullbacks on the field?


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/25 at 2:25 PM

      Glad we’re re-ignited the conversation here.

      I’ve watched Spector now twice since this poll, against Arsenal and against Wolverhampton — both times playing right fullback. He looks, in my opinion, much more comfortable for his club on the right side rather than the left in my opinion.

      Also his crossing from the right is actually a weapon and he goes forward more confidently on the right.


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/25 at 2:30 PM

        I agree 100% Matthew. And if Holden doesn’t make it, then I think Spector’s deliveries will be even more important.


      • Posted by Rick on 2010/03/25 at 2:37 PM

        Has he ever even plays on the left for the national team? I don’t recall, which makes me think he hasn’t, since seeing him on the left would just seem weird and unnatural to me, and I would have remembered that. Please set me straight here.

        BTW, I’d rather see Boca and Onyewu in the middle, with DeMerit backing up Carlos.

        HOWEVER: wasn’t Bocanegra the one that failed to charge and close down Castro on the first goal in the recent Azteca qualifier? Grrr….


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/25 at 2:44 PM

          I wrote this in January and still stand by nearly all the commentary with the exception that Goodsen has displaced Marshall.

          I’m a DeMerit-Gooch pairing fan because of how complementary they are ….I have a real hard time with Boca in the middle as he’s average at best there and prone to make mistakes (see Costa Rica, both goals) (see Netherlands..somewhat) and check the article.

          I don’t believe I’ve seen Spector on the left for the United States at least in the last 1.5 years. Credit Bob Bradley with recognizing his strength.


      • I fully agree that Spector has great offensive value at right back, but the USA has never been a team all that reliant on overlapping runs. I think Bradley will go with his fullbacks based on match-ups. Against England’s staunch attack and pacey right wingers I want a leftback who is quick and a good man-marker. The USA cannot get into a scoring contest with England, so I want to emphasize having the staunchest defense possible, which for me, is Spector and Dolo at fullback, and some combination of DeMerit, Boca, and Gooch in center, depending on health and form.

        I feel the scoring onus will really come in the next two matches, and that’s when I’d be much happier to see a Pearce/Spector combination. I agree completely with you Matthew, the best center back pair is DeMerit and Gooch. I really hate Boca is the captain of this team just because you feel compelled to start him, but I’d much rather see him come in as cover for either Gooch who might not be a 90 minute player, or put him at left back late in games when you have a lead to lock him down.


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/25 at 2:54 PM

          – Agreed: “I think Bradley will go with his fullbacks based on match-ups.”

          – I don’t think there is any chance that Spector plays at the left whatsoever.

          – I think right now you’re going to see: Spector, DeMerit, Gooch, Boca unless a leftback proves himself in all showcases before then. If the US is up, you’ll like see them bring in Dolo or Bornstein as an extra back late in the game.

          If the US is down, well…I don’t know.

          I’ve got #WorldCupFever


        • I would prefer Spector over Dolo on the right against England because he’s a bigger guy that can tuck in and help defend the far post against the crosses that Rooney and Gerrard will be trying to get their head on. Dolo on the right against England would be exposed.

          However, England are going to play with a right-footed true winger, so I’d actually prefer to start Dolo on the left. He can show the right winger the inside with Edu dropping deeper into the channel for support when the ball is in that area. On the left Gerrard is going to want to cut inside anyway. Narrow the game on the right side means England must break us down through the middle – not their strength. If the fullback overlaps, the back line is nice and tight to defend the cross.


          • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/26 at 8:04 AM

            I thought about this too Tuesday — but Dolo is just not that great at all on his left.

            I think having both Pearce and Bornstein for Bradley signals it’s one of Boca, Bornstein, and Pearce.

            Given that Pearce started in 2008 I’m starting to think he might have a shot there…wow.


            • I know, but it makes more sense than starting Dolo on the right when the RB will have to be tucking in to protect the far post on crosses a fair amount. Dolo is even worse in the air than on his left.

              Maybe the community is right and Pearce is the least bad option.

        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/26 at 9:03 AM

          The other thing to also take into account is that Cole is still doubtful, and that will upset the effectiveness and ability for Gerrard to cut in to space. The replacements are decent but Cole is truly world class and will be a huge loss.


        • Posted by KMac on 2010/03/26 at 8:14 PM

          I agree with your assessment. If healthy, Bob will go for the most successful Confed Cup lineup, as I asserted in the Jumble last week (McKee”Capped Spectator”). With that said, playing time and form, practice form and chemistry come into play with squad selection.

          I want to see the 30 picked for May, the run-up games (Czech and Turks), and then make my call.

          As I said before, Pearce’s form did not look shabby of late, but he has been inconsistent. But, so has Bornstein’s. This is why we all wring our hands, hypothesize, and disagree among ourselves. The back 4 will be one of the toughest calls Bob makes in June for each game.

          Side note, gotta love CHUCK D (CD9)! Makes up front and the middle 4 a little simpler.
          KMac (McKee)


  4. Gotta go with Boca on the left and Pearce as the backup, leaving the poor Bornstein knowing what went wrong.


  5. I’d like to see Spector, Boca, Gooch, and Goodsen start the World Cup, with Pearce and DeMerrit as second half reserves. (Well need all the fresh legs we can get on defense.)


    • Posted by KL on 2010/03/25 at 3:09 PM

      Why? Goodsen is a center back. Why would he play on the left? I like Goodsen as much as anybody else, but thats forcing it. Not to mention, that would mean two defensive subs… its never a good idea to make defensive subs unless you absolutely have to. Especially in a high pressure situation like the World Cup. Continuity is of paramount importance in the back line.


  6. Posted by Modesto on 2010/03/25 at 2:46 PM

    I agree that Spector is much better suited for getting forward and sending dangerous crosses in from the right side. He played great against Arsenal and Hull. I think Pearce does the same from the left. I hear people say that Pearce is slow?? I don’t see that. Heath and Boca are the best options for left back. Demerit and Gooch in the middle with Goodsen coming in the game late for needed height on free kicks and corners. Sounds solid and dangerous to me


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/25 at 2:51 PM

      My biggest concern with Pearce is his inconsistency. He’s either great or terrible, nothing in-between.

      JB is more of a tease–we all know that I am a JB fan that is going down with the ship–in that he’s got the goods to keep up with folks, generally plays well if timid but then has that huge risk of the goal creating play…for the opponent.

      I think the improvement of Goodsen is one of the biggest underlying stories that I need to give some more airtime too


      • Posted by Modesto on 2010/03/25 at 3:06 PM

        Matthew you need to abandon ship with JB. I like the guy but he doesn’t fit into the squad. He is a little clumsy and doesn’t distribute well and he makes silly decisions/fouls. I think when you are saying Heath played terrible it is because the whole team looked terrible. I think Heath plays solid. He’s not a superstar but I don’t see these inconsistencies you speak of. I’ll cheer on any choice sweatpants makes but I’d feel more comfortable with Pearce’s experience and smarts on the left.


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/25 at 3:49 PM

          If Pearce can continue his form from El Sal and the end of the Netherlands it’s nothing but a positive.

          I’m on the JB “skills” train…much like everyone got really excited about all of Darko Milicic’s tools/skills coming out of school. Gosh I hate that I am using that reference.


  7. Posted by Barthalmule on 2010/03/25 at 2:57 PM

    Pearce is the best and most dangerous left back we have. Slow? Not a chance, hes definetly one of the fastest/quickest on the pitch. He defends well and is dangerous on the attack with those crosses…Whats not to like?


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/25 at 3:01 PM

      Disagree — he is not fast, but he’s not slow either. Having observed him games and in person at USMNT practice in January, I described him as having “tight hips” —that is he doesn’t move fluidly with the ball — this is camouflaged by his creativity with the ball. He’s also extremely smart at going forward.

      He does an above average job at defending, his crosses are hit-or-miss.

      He would have an excellent chance at starting if he weren’t so inconsistent (see HDC January).


      • Posted by Barthalmule on 2010/03/25 at 3:08 PM

        Hes been showing up lately which is a good time to step it up…perhaps he’s taking his game to the next level! Well see hopefully with the few tune up games before the cup. I think he gives us the best chance to win…thats exactly what we need at the left back position: an above average defender who attacks well! He’s like a 90 spd in the FIFA game!LOL I think you guys might be missing something? haha


        • Posted by pino on 2010/03/25 at 3:50 PM

          Buddy please dont use fifa stats to base your opinions on a player. Pearce has decent speed, but nothing like the kind of speed landon or charlie have. He can keep up with all but the very fastest of wingers. I remember thinking that Pearce had a decent game at wembley back in 08.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/25 at 4:49 PM

          And being “fast” in a straight line is not the same as being fast when changing direction (read: tracking a tricky winger).


  8. I think the best thing about this being a World Cup year is how invested I now am in the MLS as a whole. Not only do I have my own team entering the league (Go Union!), but I’m paying attention to a bunch of different teams for watching the form of potential USMNT players. The Galaxy with Donovan, FC Dallas with Pearce, Chivas with Kljestan and Bornstein, Columbus with Rogers and Marshall, Houston with Ching, Colorado with Casey, and RSL with Findley and Beckerman. It’ll be fantastic when we can actually comment on club performance on a weekly basis with these guys rather than talking about the same USMNT games we have for months.


    • Posted by Mike Mc on 2010/03/25 at 9:12 PM

      This is totally unrelated to the USMNT LB situation but does Zakuani have U.S. citizenship? I just watched Sounders vs. Union game and he looks like he is going to be a special player. USSF needs to try and lock that down.


  9. Posted by Matt B on 2010/03/25 at 4:18 PM

    Interestingly, it was only about 18 months ago that Pearce had the left back position pretty much locked down. If I remember correctly, he led the national team in minutes played in 2008. But he has been wildly inconsistent. Against Mexico in Columbus last year, I sat on the sideline where he was playing in the 2nd half, and my buddy and I both came away pretty unimpressed with his play. Not that he defended all that poorly, as Mexico wasn’t coming down that flank much, but every time he got the ball it seemed like something negative ended up happening. Having said that, if he continues to play solidly, I’m definitely more comfortable with Pearce on the left than Bornstein.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/25 at 4:51 PM

      How many of those minutes came during non-sanctioned FIFA games – ie when the European-based players weren’t released from their clubs?


  10. Posted by Joe on 2010/03/25 at 7:37 PM

    lmao at the people asking for JAY DEMERIT to be a BACKUP in the world cup. What games do you guys watch? He and Gooch are great together. Boca’s only place would be RB, DEFINITELY NOT in the middle. Spector is a RB and will stay there FOR-E-VER.

    Spector-Gooch-Demerit- Boca…… but Pearce has a shot if he shows consistency.


  11. Posted by robbie on 2010/03/25 at 9:57 PM

    You guys are panicking. It’s actually very straight forward.

    Demerit WILL start at CB. He’s great in the air, tough, and hardly makes mistakes. He’s earned it.
    If healthy, Gooch WILL start next to Demerit. No comment needed.

    Since Spector is the undisputed starting RB, you’re not going to bench your captain. Bocanegra is the starting LB through thick and thin. It’s not even a question.

    Pearce, Bornstein, all of the second tier guys at LB are just terrible. Remember, Run DMB had a try out there in 2009 for crying out loud.


  12. Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/03/25 at 11:09 PM

    Where all of this does this leave Dolo? I think we’ll see both of them play at some point in one or two games(especially the 1st). I see Specs starting with Clint above him. Since Clint does really provide service from the wings, we’ll need Specs to do that for most of the game. Then in the 2nd half, Bob probably brings Stu on for one forward not named Josmer(shifting clint up top just like in the ConfedCup), and simultaneously brings on Dolo for the tired and slower Specs. Since Stu provides serive, it will be kind of redundant to have specs behind him. Better to have dolo overlapping with the speed and cancelling out any speedy subs Capello brings in on the outside-left.

    But then again I guess this all depends on the score


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/26 at 6:08 AM

      What’s all this nonsense about like-for-like substitutions along the back line? These guys are top level athletes and should not get tired within the 90 minutes. Unless there is an injury, why would you waste a sub by bringing on an inferior player? Surely, apart from injury, all subs need to be tactical?

      I touched upon it last week about the issue with (right footed) Spector at LB and said it might be an option if the right winger cuts in. Well against England, it is well know that Gerrard cuts in from the left – the opposite might be true (a left footed right back)…


      • Agreed George, there’s some silly talk going on in this thread. My vote is for Dolo to start at LB – see my comment above.

        Just saying who will start is not the thing – it’s the where and why that are important. For me, I can’t see anything but disaster with Boca at left back against any of the English wingers. Did we forget the qualifier at Azteca? He’s just not up to dealing with a tricky winger. Honestly I’d prefer Bornstein if I had to choose between the two of them.

        Pearce hasn’t played much recently and had a solid last outing so there aren’t any mistakes fresh in the mind – Does that mean he’s really a better option than Bornstein? Maybe. Maybe not.


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