Truth In Numbers, Starting Carlos Bocanegra At Center Back Gives US Best Chance

Sometimes numbers in soccer tell the truth. For the US Men's National Team, there are plenty of them out there but for me one of the biggest is the placing of veteran leader Carlos Bocanegra.

Most know the man can play anywhere on the back line. Either on the left, the right, or in the middle. Over the last few years, however, when Bob Bradley starts him in certain spots, the US has a higher percentage of wins and a lower amount of goals against than in other spots. 

Since 2007, the Upland, California native has started 49 games for the US. In those games where he started at left back the US is 5-3-4 (.583) and has conceded 16 goals (1.33 goals per game). In his other 37 games as a starting center back, the US is 24-10-3 (.689) and has conceded 36 goals (0.97 goals per game).

Let's see 16 goals over a stretch of 12 games and 36 goals over 37 games tells me a good deal about where I'd rather see Bocanegra start against Mexico. Of course a lot of those can be situational and not all come down to how Bocanegra plays. As we've seen in this Gold Cup, when he's in the middle with Clarence Goodson, the US has been more focused in the back allowing fewer goals and fewer chances for the opposition. Against a team like Mexico, you need that kind of stability in the back to win a competition like the Gold Cup.

I look back to the first Panama game for a lot of this reasoning to keep Bocanegra in the middle as opposed to the left back position. While the Tim Ream-Goodson duo is in a way the future of the defense of the US, the time for it just isn't now. You need a strong veteran leader like Bocanegra in games like this one with Mexico. You don't want a green defender like Ream that hasn't been put in enough big games in his career both internationally and professionally. Now this is no knock to Ream as he is an extremely talented defender for the US and for Major League Soccer, its mostly a desire to see the best group of players out on the field to give the US the best chance of winning the Gold Cup.

It's a numbers game sometimes in soccer and against someone like Mexico, you want your best numbers out there in the right positions. Having Bocanegra in the middle is the right call for Bradley to make tomorrow night. It won't guarantee a win but it will give the US the best shot at claiming another Gold Cup trophy.

For more on how the two teams got to this point, check out our USA vs. Panama stream and our Mexico vs. Honduras stream. For more updates leading up to USA vs. Mexico, bookmark this StoryStream. For all of our previous Gold Cup coverage, check out the Gold Cup 2011 section. For more on Mexican football, including the Mexican national team, the Mexico vs. USA game, and the Mexican Primera, check out SB Nation's Mexican football blog FMF State Of Mind.

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