WCQ: Depleted USMNT faces challenges in Caribbean test

With a little help, the USA will on Friday clinch a berth in the Hexagonal, the final round of World Cup 2018 qualifying in the Concacaf zone.

Even with a team missing five key starters from the Copa Centenario, the USA should take care of business at the Arnos Vale Stadium against St. Vincent & the Grenadines, the only team eliminated and without a point after four games in the semifinal round of qualifying.

But the absence of central defender John Brooks (bad back), captain Michael Bradley (suspended) and Jermaine Jones (rehabbing knee injury) in midfield and Clint Dempsey (irregular heartbeat) and Gyasi Zardes(broken foot) in attack raises some concerns.

Here are three keys to watch.

1. Altidore and Wood combine.

Barring a major surprise, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann will start Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood up front, though it will be only the fourth time they've started together. Usually, one of them has been the target man of the U.S. attack with Dempsey in support behind him.

Wood started at the Copa Centenario in place of the injured Altidore and continued to impress with his finishing in front of goal and ability to physically punish defenders. In many ways, he is similar to Altidore, though more mobile and perhaps more efficient with his chances.

Wood and Altidore are only started in three games over the last years, mostly recently in the 6-1 win over the Vincy Heat to open World Cup qualifying in last November.

Wood had the tying goal after the USA fell behind on Oalex Anderson's goal after five minutes, while Altidore later added two goals to give him five in the three games he's started alongside Wood.

2. Who will replace Bradley and Jones in midfield?

Bradley and Jones was Klinsmann's starting central midfield for five of the six games at the Copa Centenario and for the first two games of World Cup qualifying.

With Jones suspended for the next two games in March, Klinsmann first started Mix Diskerud alongside Bradley and when that didn't work out Kyle Beckerman for the second of the back-to-back games against Guatemala. Beckerman struggled in his only start at the Copa Centenario -- the 4-0 to Argentina -- but get the start on Friday.

Like Jones, Alejandro Bedoya started all but the Argentina game at the Copa Centenario and will surely start on Friday. He can play in the middle or outside, giving Klinsmann the option of finding starting Darlington Nagbe.

3. USA must avoid repeat of Antigua & Barbuda game.

Klinsmann's message to his players is play with urgency and take care of business.

Four years ago, the USA played a similar game on Day 5 of the semifinal round: an away game against a Caribbean minnow -- Antigua & Barbuda -- played at a cricket ground -- Sir Vivian Richards Stadium -- in a must-win situation with just seven points after four games.

The USA traded goals with Antigua & Barbuda in the first half and waited until the 90th minute to get the winner from Eddie Johnson for a 2-1 victory.

The USA is a deeper team than it was four years and St. Vincent & the Grenadines isn't as good as Antigua & Barbuda, but the game is a cautionary tale.

A win would make for a tense couple of hours as the USA awaited the result of the game later in the day in Trinidad & Tobago, where the Soca Warriors would send themselves and the USA into the Hexagonal with a win over Guatemala.

U.S. Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Middlesbrough/ENG), Ethan Horvath (Molde/NOR), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids).
DEFENDERS (7): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Matt Besler (Sporting KC), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach/GER), *DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG).
MIDFIELDERS (8): Paul Arriola (Tijuana/MEX), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Sacha Kljestan (NY Red Bulls), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Caleb Stanko (FC Vaduz/LIE), Graham Zusi (Sporting KC).
FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Rubio Rubin (FC Utrecht/NED), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER).
*Carrying yellow cards.

11 comments about "WCQ: Depleted USMNT faces challenges in Caribbean test".
  1. Will Lozier, September 1, 2016 at 8:20 a.m.

    "Beckerman struggled in his only start at the Copa Centenario -- the 4-0 to Argentina -- but get the start on Friday."

    Paul, proof read your work before publishing...please!

  2. Will Lozier, September 1, 2016 at 8:23 a.m.

    "Alejandro Bedoyastarted all but the Argentina game at the Copa Centenario and will surely start on Friday. He can play in the middle or outside, giving Klinsmann the option of finding starting Darlington Nagbe."

    "The USA is a deeper team than it was four years and St. Vincent & the Grenadines isn't as good as Antigua & Barbuda, but the game is a cautionary tale."

    Wow! This is so poorly written

  3. Ginger Peeler replied, September 1, 2016 at 3:45 p.m.

    AutoCorrect plays havoc with writing. I find it often changes what I have typed as I go along. Even in proofing, I miss things it has changed, because I know what I wrote. I push "submit" and then find myself staring at my foreign language posting.

  4. Wooden Ships, September 1, 2016 at 9:39 a.m.

    After years of covering the USMNT and trying to think or imagine what goes through JK's thinking, Soccer America is certainly worthy of editorial mulligans. Most of Jurgens comments and decisions give me headaches. It must be like writing papers in college when you know they are mostly an exercise in " you have to because its required." Brooks' absence causes me the greatest concern with regard to those not playing. Does anyone know what the circumstances are-were with his back issue? And to state the obvious, at least for me, the match, especially T&T, will depend upon our midfielders. I'd also like to know the amount viewers that are lost with BeIn having the broadcast right? Keep on keeping on Paul.

  5. Dan Phillips, September 1, 2016 at 11:29 a.m.

    Why is Wondo even on the roster? And lazy/Jozy again? Please!!! Give it up already!

  6. Allan Lindh, September 1, 2016 at 12:26 p.m.

    The USMNT is deeper now???????
    Gosh, I hadn't noticed.

  7. Dan Phillips, September 1, 2016 at 12:34 p.m.

    Deeper with aging players that JK keeps calling back, such as, Wondo, Beckerman, and Jozy who while not old, plays like a guy 35, because he plays so lazy (many times just sitting up top waiting for pass, and when he loses ball does not track back)!

  8. Ginger Peeler, September 1, 2016 at 3:39 p.m.

    Yeah! I'm a little miffed because my Comcast cable dropped BeIN at some point in the past. I think I've found an app that will be streaming it in Spanish. I'll take it in any language, but upset that it's not easily available to one and all.

  9. Wooden Ships replied, September 1, 2016 at 4:34 p.m.

    Yeah, Ginger I wish the USSF would figure out a way to allow more people to watch. BeIN is still rather obscure compared to other options. I was told sometime ago that the host country establishes the network used. If you discover an online option please let me know and like you I'd be fine if it was in sign language.

  10. Eric Schmitt, September 1, 2016 at 9:18 p.m.

    Just as a brief reminder about the broadcast rights: US soccer has no control over the broadcast rights to the away games. Broadcast rights are owned by the host nation of any particular game, and they can sell them to whoever they want. US Soccer has no say about road games.

  11. Wooden Ships replied, September 1, 2016 at 11:02 p.m.

    Thanks Eric. I would have thought that FS, NBC or ESPN could out bid BeIN. Or at least I wish they would.

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