Lacking Fullback Options, USMNT Should Call-up Columbus Crew SC Defender Chris Klute

United States Mens National Team Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann cited a lack of fullback prospects in Major League Soccer as a reason he used a 3-5-2 formation in the team’s 3-2 loss in Chile. Does Columbus Crew SC defender Chris Klute have an opportunity to earn a National Team call-up in wake of Klinsmann’s comments?

In the United States’ 3-2 loss to Chile, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann raised eyebrows by employing a 3-5-2 formation.

When asked about the change in formation, the United States Mens National Team coach responded that there were few fullback options in Major League Soccer to choose from. The USMNT roster for the January friendlies versus Chile and Panama features two outside backs: DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham) and Shane O’Neill (Colorado).

This is an MLS-based camp. It is the players that are here that we see have the potential to play on an international stage, and what we lack in maybe some positions, we have to balance it out in other positions,” Klinsmann said. “That’s why we played a 3-5-2 in Chile because we don’t have pretty much any fullbacks coming out of MLS on the level that we expect them to be.”

With Klinsmann considering his options at the fullback position, many MLS defenders have a chance this upcoming season to impress the National Team coach and earn a call-up. One of these individuals with an opportunity is newly-acquired Columbus Crew SC defender Chris Klute.

Klute has been on Klinsmann’s radar in the past. In 2014, he was on the verge of earning his first senior cap for the USMNT. That year, Klute received a January camp call-up following a breakout 2013 season in MLS, but never played in the team’s friendly after the camp. However, he has represented the United States on the U-17 and U-20 teams.

Despite not yet making an appearance for the senior team, Klute continues to impress in the MLS ranks. In 2013, his first full season in MLS, Klute started 30 matches for the Colorado Rapids and led the team in assists (7), and was voted the team’s defensive player of the year by the team’s players and coaches. He followed that up by leading the team in crosses from open play (51) and tackles won (67) in 2014, and ranked third on the team in touches (1,634).

Crew SC acquired Chris Klute during the 2015 MLS SuperDraft at a bargain price, swapping the 14th and 19th picks and allocation money for the versatile defender. Part of the reason the team was interested in Klute was his ability to play both left and right back, explained Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter.

“It’s no secret that our full backs have an extremely high workload,” Berhalter said. “Last year, played number of people at both left and right back, and we need bodies in those positions. And Chris is very versatile. He can play just as comfortably on the left as on the right, so we know we can use him on both sides.”

That versatility is a major reason why Klinsmann should consider Klute for the senior team. Klute’s ability to play on either side, and even at center back if necessary, would give the team needed depth on the back line. Furthermore, Klute showed the ability during his time with Colorado to push forward and create assists with his crosses — a trait that should certainly catch Klinsmann’s attention as much as it did Berhalter’s.

Klute is projected to start at right back for Crew SC this season. If that’s true, he will likely join forces in the Crew SC defense with three other players who have international experience — former USMNT left back Michael Parkhurst, Austrian defender Emanuel Pogatetz and Costa Rican left back Waylon Francis — giving Klute the chance to learn from veterans who have played at the highest level. If he continues to improve and makes the most of his new opportunity, Crew fans may see Klute receive a senior team call-up sometime in the near future.