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Bruce Arena faces dilemma in wake of John Brooks' injury
by Paul Kennedy, August 17th, 2017 3:33AM
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TAGS:  men's national team, world cup 2018


The USA's injury situation on its backline just got worse. Wolfsburg announced on Wednesday that John Brooks, injured in his debut with the German club in the DFB Pokal on Saturday, will miss three months with a torn tendon in his thigh, putting him out of action for the final four games of the Hexagonal.

"That's a big blow for him and the club," Wolfsburg sporting director Olaf Rebbesaid. "We had closed this hole in our defense."

The news came less than two weeks before the USA will assemble to prepare for qualifiers against Costa Rica on Sept. 1 and at Honduras four days later.

Brooks, whose $22.4 million move to Wolfsburg from Hertha Berlin set a record for the highest transfer ever by an American, started the two home games after Bruce Arena took over as head coach, both shutout wins (6-0 over Honduras and 2-0 over Trinidad & Tobago).

Brooks' latest injury alone should not be a crisis. He missed all six qualifiers during the Concacaf semifinal round and the two road games in March and June. Tim Ream, who made the EFL team of the week at Fulham, filled in for Brooks at Panama and Mexico (when Arena went with three in the action) and the USA got results in both games.

USA's Hexagonal CB combinations:
USA-Mexico (1-2): Gonzalez-Brooks-Besler
Costa Rica-USA (4-0): Gonzalez-Brooks
USA-Honduras (6-0): Gonzalez-Brooks
Panama-USA (1-1): Gonzalez-Ream
USA-Trin. & Tob. (2-0): Cameron-Brooks
Mexico-USA (1-1): Gonzalez-Cameron-Ream

Arena's dilemma. The concern for Arena will be that other defenders will be unavailable, limiting his ability to rotate players against Costa Rica and Honduras, like he did against T&T and Mexico, or go with five in the back again on the road.

The game in Mexico City presented unique challenges -- one less day of rest and altitude -- but playing in San Pedro Sula in the afternoon heat is not piece of cake, especially for the European-based players with only a few competitive games in the their legs. One of the worst performances of the Jurgen Klinsmann era was the 2-1 loss in SPS to open the 2013 Hexagonal.

The USA is in good shape to finish in the top three in the current Hexagonal if it sweeps its final two home games against Costa Rica and Panama. The USA will know a lot more about its situation after the Catrachos play at T&T the same day as it hosts Costa Rica. But the big thing the USA will likely need to avoid on the road against Honduras is not a defeat -- but a heavy defeat that would eat away at its 11-goal advantage in goal difference over Honduras.

USA's Hexagonal scenarios:
USA vs. PAN: USA > CRC & PAN, MEX > PAN ... USA beats out PAN.
USA vs. HON: USA > CRC & PAN ... USA beats out PAN unless HON takes 10 of 12 points.

Also sidelined. Right back DeAndre Yedlin was back on the practice field, rehabbing at Newcastle United on Wednesday, but he missed the Magpies' first game since they returned to the EPL. Omar Gonzalez, the only centerback who has played more than Brooks in the Hexagonal, left Pachuca's Copa MX game in the first half a week ago and has not dressed since then.

Yedlin, one of only four players to start both June qualifiers, would be harder to replace than Gonzalez. At center back, Arena also has used Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler (in the Gold Cup) and Ream. But they'll all need to get through the next two weekends without injuries.

  1. Wooden Ships
    commented on: August 17, 2017 at 9:47 a.m.
    Injuries always complicate a roster. Brooks is a significant loss, but I think Coach Arena has many options there. For me, the mid and forwards go a long way in reducing the play in our defensive third. For years we've depended too much on our defenders. I hope next month our focus is on attack, attack, attack. I'd like to see Chandler, Cameron, Ream and Fabian in back. I also hope Kelyn Rowe is brought on, very skilled and smart IMO. Arena will start Jozy, but he needs to up his work rate. We can't afford players going less than 100%. These are two solid teams that we need to deny possession and out score. I'm also a proponent of having our posts manned on corners.
  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: August 17, 2017 at 11:53 a.m.
    Ships, we've had to defend so much because the passing skills of our back line and midfield were poor compared to our opponents. We won't be able to attack much if the ball can't get through midfield on the ground. Brooks' injury is a setback. Where is Miazga in all this?
  1. Wooden Ships
    commented on: August 17, 2017 at 2:26 p.m.
    I hope Miazga makes the roster. True, about some of the passing out of the back, but its also true of our players showing for the ball and controlling it away to another teammate. We have those players today. Ream is an excellent passer, so is Fabian, Cameron most of the time and Chandlers playing great. Besler is a solid passer, so I will emphasize its more about our mids and forwards first and last touch.
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: August 17, 2017 at noon
    C'est la vie. It has always taken more than 11 players to win a competition.
  1. Philip Friedman
    commented on: August 17, 2017 at 1:54 p.m.
    I don't understand why Jon Bornstein isn't even considered. He's playing 90 minutes every week in Liga MX for Queretaro (in 6th place), they play at altitude like Mexico City, he is familiar with all the Mexican players and many other Concacaf players....why not?
  1. Bob Ashpole
    commented on: August 17, 2017 at 7:07 p.m.
    I am sure he has been considered, just not selected for camp by Arena. It is a good question though.

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