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Yellow cards, Dempsey injury complicate U.S. quest
by Ridge Mahoney, October 6th, 2009 7AM



[WORLD CUP 2010 QUALIFYING] Add a Clint Dempsey shoulder injury to the factors complicating the selection decisions faced by U.S. coach Bob Bradley. Dempsey underwent an MRI evaluation Monday and has been diagnosed with a shoulder sprain, which rules him out of the Hexagonal match Saturday against Honduras in San Pedro Sula. Further evaluation will determine his status for the final Hexagonal game a week from Wednesday against Costa Rica in Washington, D.C.

After starting and playing most of Fulham's 2-2 tie against West Ham on Saturday, Dempsey left in the 84th minute. According to a U.S. Soccer press release, no replacement player will be named for the game against Honduras.

Along with Jozy Altidore, Carlos Bocanegra, Conor Casey, Steve Cherundolo, Ricardo Clark, Landon Donovan and Benny Feilhaber, Dempsey is a player named to the U.S. roster for the final two Hexagonal matches who is carrying a caution.

(Three other players not named on the roster -- Jay DeMerit, Frankie Hejduk and Sacha Kljestan -- are also carrying cards.)

"Any of those players carded against Honduras would sit out the Costa Rica match, which of the two is by far the most important. Unless the USA does as well or better in San Pedro than Costa Rica does at home on Saturday against Trinidad & Tobago, the Americans will need at least a tie against the Ticos at RFK Stadium to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. (The other scenario is a U.S. loss in San Pedro Sula and Costa Rica-T&T tie, in which case the USA might still qualify on goal difference if it lost to the Ticos.)

Bradley could bench some or all of the cautioned players for the Honduras game to assure their eligibility for the Costa Rica match, or use them in hopes of getting a victory that would clinch qualification. Fourth-place Costa Rica (12 points) trails Hexagonal leader U.S. (16) by four points in the standings. Second is Mexico (15) and Honduras (13) is third. Tied at the bottom with eight points are El Salvador and Trinidad & Tobago.

Only the top three teams in the six-team Hexagonal qualify automatically. The fourth-place finisher goes into a two-match playoff against the fifth-place South American nation.

Honduras, which hasn't qualified for the World Cup since 1982, would tie the USA. in the Hexagonal and could clinch a 2010 spot by beating the Americans in its final home game. The match will be played with the country chafing under a governmental ban on marches and demonstrations imposed to prevent public displays of support for deposed president Manuel Zelaya. He was forced out of the country in late June, but secretively returned two weeks ago and took sanctuary at the Brazilian embassy in the capital city of Tegucigalpa .

Interim president Roberto Micheletti has imposed a nighttime curfew and banned public gatherings as he tries to solidify his hold on the country. Restrictions were relaxed last week to allow Honduran clubs Marathon and Real Espana to host their Concacaf Champions' League matches.

Airports in the country were reopened after being temporarily closed following Zelaya's clandestine return. The Americans will train in Miami through Wednesday and travel to San Pedro Sula by charter flight.


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