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USMNT: Arena's roster selections surprising yet telling
by Paul Kennedy, March 16th, 2017 12:26AM
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TAGS:  men's national team

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U.S. men’s national team head coach Bruce Arena named his roster of 24 players for first World Cup 2018 qualifiers since he returned as national team coach, the critical matches against Honduras and Panama. The roster included plenty of surprises but was telling how Arena will go about selecting his team.

Hexagonal Countdown:
Honduras: Roster
Panama: Roster

1. Arena trusts his veterans.

So a show of hands. Who'd have bet at the beginning of year that Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey or DaMarcus Beasley, let alone all three, would be picked for the March qualifiers?

Howard was coming off groin surgery, Dempsey's heart ailment sidelined him for the Seattle Sounders' championship run, and Beasley was in international retirement (for a second time).

But all three go back with Arena to the 2006 World Cup -- Beasley back to the 2002 World Cup in South Korea when he started at the age of 20 -- so he was going to give them every opportunity to convince him to recall them. Each did that: Howard in his first game back for Colorado on Saturday, Dempsey going 90 minutes in Seattle's first two games, and Beasley at January camp and in the Houston opener.

Of the three, Howard probably has best shot at starting. Arena looks to use Dempsey as a late sub, while Beasley is one three players in the mix at left back.

2. January camp matters a lot.

Who said January camp doesn't matter? You can make a case that half a dozen players played their way on to the March squad with strong camps:

-- Nick Rimando (distancing himself from the other keepers behind Brad Guzan and Howard);
-- FC Dallas youngsters Walker Zimmerman (previously uncapped) and Kellyn Acosta (before the latter was injured);
-- Dax McCarty (a late arrival following his wedding);
-- Jorge Villafana (who got a shot when Santos released him); and
-- Sebastian Lletget (who Arena knew from the LA Galaxy).

3. Major League Soccer matters, too.

The differences on how Jurgen Klinsmann vs. Arena viewed MLS have probably been overblown. But it's clear Arena will weigh the performances -- good and bad -- of the national team players in MLS he is looking at making his roster selections.

Zimmerman vs. Steve Birnbaum as the third or fourth center back? Zimmerman's FC Dallas is unbeaten in MLS and a result away from reaching the Concacaf Champions League final. Birnbaum's D.C. United was blown out at New York City FC on Sunday.

McCarty vs. Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Kljestan among the players in the wilderness during much of the Klinsmann era? McCarty quickly put the controversy regarding his trade to Chicago Fire behind him and has helped it get off to an unbeaten start. Feilhaber's Sporting Kansas City is also unbeaten (but with a pair of 0-0 draws) as is Kljestan's New York Red Bulls (but after being knocked out of the Concacaf Champions League).

4. Questions remain about who'll start at outside back.

Only last week, Arena said he and his staff were up to speed on their player pool and he was just hoping to get through the next two weeks with "no crazy things" happening.

But already since then, he's lost his starting right back, DeAndre Yedlin (now out five weeks with a hamstring injury), and Eric Lichaj (injured on Saturday at Nottingham Forest). If not injured, both players would be in San Jose.

Without Timmy Chandler, who is suspended for Honduras game and won't be brought in for the Panama game, and without Yedlin, the two choices at right back are Geoff Cameron and Michael Orozco. Both have played for the USA at right back in the last year though neither is considered a natural right back.

At left back, Tim Ream, Villafana and Beasley have all played the position. Not picked was Greg Garza, who started against Serbia in January.

Fabian Johnson may be the best U.S. player at both outside back positions but is listed as a midfielder, the position he plays in Germany. If Arena accomplishes one thing in 2017 in terms of the positioning of his players, he says he wants to find a permanent home for Johnson -- and that is in midfield.

U.S. Roster:
Goalkeepers (3): Brad Guzan (Middlesbrough/ENG; 13/0), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids; 33/0), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake; 0/0)
Defenders (8): John Brooks (Hertha Berlin/GER; 2/0), DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo; 33/6), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG; 19/2), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX; 12/0), Michael Orozco (Tijuana/MEX; 6/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 2/0), Jorge Villafana (Santos/MEX; 0/0), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas; 0/0).
Midfielders (9): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas; 1/0), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union; 6/0, Michael Bradley (Toronto FC; 31/5), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy; 16/0), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach/GER; 15/1), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 0/0), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers; 3/0), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 5/2).
Forwards (4): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC; 33/16), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders; 36/13), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders 3/0), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER; 8/3)
Note: WCQ caps and goals in parentheses.



15 comments
  1. Bryan Kempf
    commented on: March 16, 2017 at 8:07 a.m.
    Why isn't Emerson Hyndman in the mix? It shouldn't even be a question. Not only that, I'd have him in the starting 11.
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: March 16, 2017 at 11:30 a.m.
    Based on what? A few good performances in a league that is a step below MLS level? Not for must win games like the two coming up.
  1. Mo youknow
    commented on: March 16, 2017 at 8:19 a.m.
    Because Emerson is only just now succeeding against men, not boys, in a league that isn't as good as MLS. He hasn't proven a thing that warrants senior international caps in must win world cup qualifiers.
  1. Chester Grant
    commented on: March 16, 2017 at 12:54 p.m.
    I recall Feilhaber making a big difference when he took the field in the friendlies.....a big mistake to leave this guy out...same mistake that Klinsmann made.
  1. Delroy Wallace
    commented on: March 16, 2017 at 2:13 p.m.
    It is never good to jump on a bandwagon. So hera it now. The team is sub-par for international football.
  1. Bryan Kempf
    commented on: March 16, 2017 at 4:31 p.m.
    Fire Paul Gardner and Mo... I'm not going to debate which league is better, because there is no definitive answer. But I can say that i'd take a kid that's in great form, and who is based in the UK. I think hyndman, pulisic, and wood would be a great combination.
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: March 16, 2017 at 5:26 p.m.
    Typical euro snob attitude. Kid plays in Eruope so he must be better than US based players. If he's starting in England, sure. And maybe Celtic are better than many MLS teams. But the rest of the SPL is pretty weak and that includes Rangers, at least at this moment in time.
  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: March 16, 2017 at 6:19 p.m.
    euro snob--that's so old. isn't there a better moniker to wind up people you don't know on the boards? Does that make you a butthurt MLS supporter? Americans that play in Europe have to be that much better than the locals just to get a kick. They have to survive the very competitive academy team system despite their American-ness, whether that's is England or Scotland. Yes, Hyndman has connections that helped him get a look, but if he couldn't play he wouldn't have been hanging around so long in England. If the SPL is so bad, why would Perry Kitchen be there instead of back in MLS? SPL officials are better than MLS', BTW.
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: March 17, 2017 at 10:16 a.m.
    Ask Perry Kitchen. Maybe he got paid more or maybe he just wanted to try playing abroad. Or, more likely, he figured that playing in Europe is an easier way to get spotted for a bigger European league. It is facile to just say that anything in Europe is better than MLS. It's just not so. Sure, the top leagues in Europe are unquestionably better but the SPL is ranked around 25 in Europe and is completely dominated by one team. Literally, Celtic has not lost a game all season (and only two draws) in the SPL. The standard is lower than MLS.
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: March 17, 2017 at 10:18 a.m.
    And to clarify - Hyndman is very good and I think he'll make it in England in the near future. Maybe next season. When he does, he'll merit a look for the USMNT. But I wouldn't pick him over Acosta for example. They are the same age but Acosta has been doing it longer and at a higher level. Pachuca is better than any team Rangers will play all season, that's for sure.
  1. James Madison
    commented on: March 16, 2017 at 7:49 p.m.
    Beazley is in because, if no one else can play left back, he can. Albeit not as well or as fast as when he was younger. Brooks and Dempsey are bigger, but I still would have picked Birnbaum. And Feilhaber over someone; if not the ever vigorous, but sloppy Jones, then maybe Bedoya. Outside back and forward remain the biggest weakpoints. Altidore? Dempsey?
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: March 17, 2017 at 10:10 a.m.
    With Johnson injured in his latest match, Beasley will be needed in the final 23. Hopefully it is a minor injury.
  1. Wooden Ships
    commented on: March 17, 2017 at 11:45 p.m.
    Just back from Pura Vida land. I'm at a loss, our far and away best creative midfielder is again omitted by another National team manager. Sure, it's subjective, but guaranteed we will not see the vision and touch that Feilhaber can provide for 90. There are always at least ten, served on a platter-sitters to be, he delivers. Finish two or three and it's usually 3 points. I've been the recipient, as a striker, of quality 10's. Perhaps, this is why we struggle so to finish and lift some of the burden of defending.
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: March 19, 2017 at 11:27 p.m.
    I suspect Nagbe is getting picked because of his versatility, playing 8 or 10 in midfield or as a winger. I suspect that Zusi was added as a FB rather than a CM.
  1. Nick Daverese
    commented on: March 20, 2017 at 7:19 a.m.
    I think the more positions a player can play the better you are as a manager in a game you can make moves without having to make a substitution where you only have limited subs.

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