[HEXAGONAL: Matchday 10]The USA has the luxury of tinkering with its lineup -- eight players who'd likely be in its first-team starting lineup are unavailable -- but Tuesday's Hexagonal finale against Panama at Panama City's Estadio Rommel Fernandez means everything to the home team.
The USA went into Friday's Jamaica game without four starters -- Fabian Johnson, Omar Gonzalez, Michael Bradleyand Clint Dempsey --plus Eddie Johnson, and U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann released four more starters after the 2-0 win over the Reggae Boyz in Kansas City.
Tim Howard and Matt Beslerwere released to allow Brad Guzan and Clarence Goodson to get starts on Tuesday, while Landon Donovan(ankle) and Jermaine Jones(knee) were released due to injury concerns, though LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said Monday that he was hopeful that Donovan -- and Gonzalez -- could be available for Wednesday's MLS match against Montreal.
The only established U.S. starters in Panama City are right back Brad Evans, left back DaMarcus Beasley, who will serve as captain, and Jozy Altidore. Klinsmann brought only 16 field players -- 20 are allowed to dress -- so all but three could get a game on Tuesday.
“Everyone that is here is highly focused and wants to show a good game," Klinsmann told reporters on Monday. "Obviously we are happy that we are already qualified, but I told the players before the game last week that we are already preparing things for Brazil. Whoever goes on the field here has to show everything he has in order to build his case for Brazil.”
Klinsmann will have a lot to go on as his World Cup contenders face a team playing for its World Cup life. Panama will have to beat the USA and hope Costa Rica beats Mexico in San Jose to stay alive in its bid to qualify for the World Cup finals for the first time.
The Canaleros can finish the evening with no more than a berth in the intercontinental playoffs against New Zealand next month but it would be the farthest they've ever advanced. And everyone in the Estadio Rommel Fernandez will getting updates on the Costa Rica-Mexico game so good news from San Jose would ratchet up the Canaleros.
If he didn't have an appreciation for the Concacaf tournament before it began, Klinsmann certainly does now.
"It will be a battle tomorrow night until the very last moment for Panama and Mexico," he said.
GOALKEEPERS (3):Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake).
DEFENDERS (6):DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Tijuana), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Michael Orozco (Puebla).
MIDFIELDERS (6):Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Graham Zusi (Sporting KC).
FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Aron Johannsson (AZ), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes).