[USA SPOTLIGHT] The U.S. national team played without Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey on the field at the same time for the first 11 games of the Jurgen Klinsmann era and survived. But what was unimaginable was that Donovan, Dempsey and Michael Bradley, the three key players in the USA's front six for the last five years, could all be unavailable for the next two World Cup 2014 qualifiers Sept. 7 and Sept. 11 against Jamaica, the toughest opponent in its group. Just how important is the trio? At the 2010 World Cup, 2009 Confederations Cup and in the 2009 Hexagonal, where the USA enjoyed unprecedented success, the trio had a hand in 25 of the 31 U.S. goals.
Donovan suffered a hamstring injury early in the USA's win at Mexico on Aug. 15 and has not played since. Dempsey, who asked to be transferred by Fulham, hasn't played since the Guatemala-USA World Cup 2014 qualifier in June. And Bradley, who debuted with Italian club Roma, suffered a quadriceps injury that could keep him sidelined for up to a month.
Dempsey's future will be determined in the next day as Europe's summer transfer window ends Friday night. Klinsmann didn't call him into the Mexico game but he could bring him in for the Jamaica series.
How important is the trio?
-- Bradley, Dempsey and Donovan scored all five goals for the USA at the 2010 World Cup. Dempsey's goal gave the USA a 1-1 tie with England in their opener, and Donovan put the Americans through to the second round with his last-second goal against Algeria, the second of three in four games.
-- Bradley, Dempsey and Donovan combined for six of the eight goals the USA scored in its run to second place at the 2009 Confederations Cup.
-- Bradley, Dempsey or Donovan had a hand in 15 of the 19 goals the USA scored in the Hexagonal, the final round of World Cup 2010 qualifying in Concacaf. Bradley had three goals -- including the two against Mexico to kick off the Hexagonal with a 2-0 win in Columbus, Ohio. Dempsey had only one goal and one assist, but Donovan carried the team with three goals and nine assists in the 10 games he started.
Who will step up if they're not around? That's a question U.S. fans may be asking sooner than they ever imagined.