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USMNT: Arena on Dempsey and other omissions
by Paul Kennedy, January 6th, 2017 6:08AM
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TAGS:  bruce arena, clint dempsey, men's national team, world cup 2018


One notable omission from the U.S. roster for the January camp that opens Tuesday in Carson, California, is Clint Dempsey, who scored four goals in 10 games in 2016 before being diagnosed with a heart ailment. U.S. coach Bruce Arena is hopeful that Dempsey, one of four players from his 2006 U.S, World Cup who were still active in 2016, will be ready for the 2017 season.

"We've been following Clint and communicating with the Seattle team, and Clint's making great progress," Arena said in a Facebook chat with fans after the 32-player roster was announced. "He's going through his progressions in Seattle, and at this time, he's not fully ready to come in to camp."

Dempsey's 130 caps and 52 goals are tops among any player who represented the USA in 2016, and Arena isn't ruling him out for the next two Hexagonal matches in March against Honduras and at Panama.

"We really believe that by March he'll be ready to play in Seattle [for the start of the MLS season]," he said, "and be a possibility for our qualifiers."

2006 U.S. WC Players (active in 2016)
*Tim Howard 37
DaMarcus Beasley 34
Landon Donovan 34
*Clint Dempsey 33
*Played for USA in 2016.

MISSING IN ACTION. With 32 MLS players in camp, Arena cast a wide net, but a couple of players were surprise omissions.

Cristian Roldan: In his second MLS year, the 21-year-old midfielder played a big role in the Seattle Sounders' 2016 MLS Cup title. "He's one of those players that just got left out in the end," Arena said. "I think he had a fantastic year in Seattle and we're going to continue to follow his progress. I would imagine during 2017 he'll have an opportunity."

Lee Nguyen: Nguyen, 30, had a great January camp a year ago but never got much of a chance after that. With Arena's state goal of seeking out "a better passer" in midfield, it seemed hard to pass up the Revs' star. "Lee is a very good player," Arena said. "I went with a couple of other players in his position but still believe that he's a player that we have to consider down the road."

ROLE PLAY. Arena also discussed what positions he hopes to try out some of the players he called in:

Gyasi Zardes: He mostly played in front in 2016 for the LA Galaxy but Arena often praised is work ethic on the wing, where he'll likely play on the national team upon his return after missing the last six months of 2016 with a broken foot."Gyasi's versatility makes him very valuable," Arena said. "He's a lot like [Jordan] Morris in that regard. They can both play as strikers, and they can both play outside midfield."

Graham Zusi: An outside midfielder for most of the MLS career with Sporting Kansas City and on the national team, Zusi will get a look at right back, where Arena thinks he can extend his career. "We know that he can play in the right back position," Arena said. "We have a talented group in the midfield and think that Graham can still help our team as a right back, and we're going to give it a shot."

Kellyn Acosta: Jurgen Klinsmann used him mostly at outside back, but Arena says he's a defensive midfielder. "That's where he plays with FC Dallas," he said, "so we plan on looking at him in that position in the January camp."

BY THE NUMBERS. When he look the job in November, Arena singled out the backline as an area of concern after it gave up six goals in two games against Mexico and Costa Rica,  first time it happened in two straight official matches in more than seven years.

"In general," Arena said then, "the theme of both games was our back line played poorly, and I don’t think they are poor players. I think they can play better."

Of the six defenders who played in the two games, none is in January camp because of club commitments or injuries. One thing for sure is that Arena won't try what Klinsmann did against Mexico and that's come out with three in the back.

"Clearly, I think at this time we have to have a back four," Arena said. "Playing three at the back is always an option at some point in time. But in a short period of time like a January camp, or in a short camp in March to prepare for qualifiers, we wouldn't do that. We'll play out of a back four. How we line up above that back line remains to be seen."

  1. Allan Lindh
    commented on: January 6, 2017 at 11:46 p.m.
    Gee whiz, a grownup making sensible statements. Now if just had the 2002 WC roster. Even half of it.
  1. Bret Newman
    commented on: January 10, 2017 at 7:26 a.m.
    If I can just take two players from that 2002 WC Squad, I would take Tony Sanneh and John O' Brien. Those two, were in beast mode during the World Cup. Wait...I would take Clint Mathis as my third player. He's the X factor!

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