We are now just 10 days away from the the next United States Men’s National Team World Cup qualifier. Sitting in a deep hole because of his predecessor, USMNT Head Coach Bruce Arena has many decisions to make about who will help dig his side out.
The two biggest names Arena needs to decide on are Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey. In a Facebook Live Question and Answer, Arena was skeptical about both players when asked if they will be a part of the upcoming qualifiers. Most likely, Howard will be in the “23-to-25-man” roster, but Dempsey will miss out.
In the case of Dempsey, Arena is solely focused on his health and will not rush him back into action. Howard is back to starting with Colorado, which Arena has stated is key for him being part of the national team setup.
The other two goalkeepers that will get called up are Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando. Guzan has not been getting minutes with Middlesbrough lately but Arena said, “We’ve followed his progress and if he continues to stay healthy, I would think that he’s going to be included in our roster as well.”
Moving up the field to the fullbacks leaves us with more questions. At right back, DeAndre Yedlin would be the clear favorite if not for a recent thigh injury. If he cannot play, Arena will look towards Graham Zusi after a successful stint there in January. Timmy Chandler will also miss a call-up as he is suspended for the Honduras match.
Jorge Villafana could likely start at left back, which is the weakest link on this team currently. Villafana beat out Greg Garza in the January camp, but has not seen many minutes for Santos Laguna recently, whereas Garza has yet to leave the field for MLS newcomers Atlanta United. Fabian Johnson is arguably the best player for the U.S., but he will likely be playing in the midfield.
The center back competition is pretty much over with Geoff Cameron now almost completely healed up. He and John Brooks are the two proven center backs and will be starting together on March 25. Steve Birnbaum and Omar Gonzalez will also get called up, but will see limited action, if any. Matt Besler could also see a return to the national team because of his leadership and versatility, even if there are better players in terms of quality than the Sporting Kansas City Designated Player.
In the midfield, Jermaine Jones will miss out for the same reason as Chandler, which opens the door for a few MLSers. Michael Bradley will, of course, be part of the setup, as will Darlington Nagbe after a standout January camp. Sacha Kljestan, Benny Feilhaber, and Dax McCarty also turned heads in the January camp and continue to play at the highest level in MLS. In addition, Christian Pulisic’s goal-scoring trend in Germany makes him a no-brainer.
Forward might possibly be the easiest selection. Bobby Wood, Jozy Altidore, and Jordan Morris will all be involved, with Altidore and Wood playing together. Juan Agudelo is a possibility but he was less than impressive in January, which could have ruined his chances for the time being. Who will replace Dempsey is the only question, but that player will most likely not even see the field. My bet is with Gyasi Zardes, as Arena is familiar with, and thinks highly of, the speedster from his LA days.
Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan, Tim Howard, Nick Rimando.
Defense: Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin, Graham Zusi, Steve Birnbaum, Omar Gonzalez, Jorge Villafana, Greg Garza, Matt Besler.
Midfield: Michael Bradley, Dax McCarty, Benny Feilhaber, Sacha Kljestan, Christian Pulisic, Fabian Johnson, Sebastian Lletget, Alejandro Bedoya.
Forward: Jozy Altidore, Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, Gyasi Zardes.