The perpetual left back problem 

April, 27, 2011

When we posted our first 2014 Brazil lineup projection, we pushed a hot button by including Jonathan Bornstein. The criticism of the U.S. left back at times borders on hatred (OK, it often crosses that border), though by our sights, Bornstein performed solidly in the 2010 World Cup, and there is no clear rival for the position on the horizon. We realized we're probably in for three more years of heated debate over who should play left back.

Which got us to thinking ...

When hasn't that been the case? In some ways, the last few years have been an oasis of calm at the position. The Yanks shut down some of the top teams in the world by shifting Carlos Bocanegra from central defense to left back. The Confederations Cup upset over Spain in 2009 probably wouldn't have happened without Bob Bradley making the move. The U.S. captain started on the left and pinched into the center, denying the Spaniards room in the middle of the field. The strategy worked to a lesser extent in the Yanks' 1-1 draw with Argentina in March, as well. "Against the Spains, Argentinas, Brazils," Bocanegra says, "who are going to have a lot of the ball and come at you through the middle, we said, 'OK, more often than not we'll give you the outsides and defend the cross, but not let you beat us down the middle -- stay compact and get numbers in there."

And you're likely to see a similar setup again, when the World Cup champs visit Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts on June 4.

Luke Cyphers is a former senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.