USMNT: Arena examines next task: cutting down roster

Bruce Arena says he and his staff are looking at a pool of about 40 players from which he will bring about 25 players into camp in San Jose, California, to prepare for the March World Cup 2018 qualifiers against Honduras and Panama. He talked on Thursday about whom he's looking at and what the team needs to do. Areas of improvement? "Win games," Arena said bluntly.

Arena said he was pleased with the 23 players he used in the two friendlies against Serbia and Jamaica, naming just about every player. At two key positions, he listed off many of the candidates he looked at in the two friendlies.

Hexagonal: Schedule

In addition to Sacha Kljestan and Benny Feilhaber at central midfield in front of Michael Bradley, he mentioned Sebastian Lletget, Darlington Nagbe and Alejandro Bedoya as capable of playing the position. At the wide-open left back position, he singled out Jorge Villafana but also listed Greg Garza and DaMarcus Beasley as options.

“I was really pleased with the reaction of the players in the January camp and the games we played in,” Arena said during a media conference call. “Obviously, it was critically important that we got to know these players a little bit better and understand their qualities a little bit better as we prepare for our roster in March.”

The hard part will be getting the team down to a group of about 25 players for late March, keeping in mind that Jermaine Jones and Timmy Chandler  are suspended for the first game against Honduras.

“The goal now is to merge our players abroad with our domestic players and come up with the best roster for those games against Honduras and Panama,” Arena said. “We’re working right now with a pool of approximately 40 players, give or take a few numbers, and we need to break it down to somewhere near 25 players to call in for March when we report to San Jose.”

Arena has already met with some of the USA's foreign-based players -- he traveled to Germany between the MLS conference finals and MLS Cup in Toronto and met Fabian Johnson, Christian Pulisic, Bobby Wood, John Brooks and Chandler in Germany -- and he and his staff will visit them and others over the next month.

“We’re going to visit them,” Arena said. “We remain in contact with all of these players and as of today, we’ll probably have had contact with every player in our pool … emails, phone conversations, and then visits. I’ve already been in touch with most of these players personally, visiting players in Germany in December and I plan to go back in the next week or so, as will other staff members. We’ll be going to Germany, England, Mexico, as well as following the players in the United States."

Of the players in England and Mexico, he singled out two: Nottingham Forest left back Eric Lichaj and Tijuana winger Paul Arriola.

“I think in particular Lichaj and Arriola are players right now that we have to strongly consider for the March camp," Arena said. "We’re going to get to see those players in the next couple of weeks to help make some of those decisions."

On the injury front, Arena said center back Geoff Cameron, who has been sidelined since early November, will be back in full training shortly and he hasn't given up on goalkeeper Tim Howard, who required surgery on his groin after being injured in the 2-1 loss to Mexico in November.

“He’s on schedule to hopefully start in the first weekend of the Major League Soccer season,” Arena said of Howard. “Perhaps he won’t be a candidate for March, but right now he’s in the picture and that’s a positive as well.”

Experience will count for a lot in Arena's decision about whom he'll start in goal.

Brad Guzan’s a very experienced goalkeeper and as we saw in the case of Nick Rimando in the January camp, that experience means a lot and just because they’re not getting games on a consistent basis doesn’t mean you can rule them out,” Arena said. “Brad has shown enough that he’s still a strong candidate to be our No. 1 goalkeeper.”

3 comments about "USMNT: Arena examines next task: cutting down roster".
  1. Wooden Ships, February 10, 2017 at 7:35 a.m.

    For me, it would be tougher to select the 25 over the starting 11. Doesn't help that two aren't eligible for the first game. I do think it would be less complicated if everyone had the same schedule. I also think having a wasted roster spot or two on a senior, senior player for their locker room-training ground leadership/experience is overstated in its importance.

  2. Bob Ashpole, February 10, 2017 at 8:28 a.m.

    WS: As I would expect you have made good points. The last one I am not concerned about. January camp is different than selecting a roster for a qualifier, and Arena is not new to the task.

  3. Bob Ashpole, February 10, 2017 at 8:29 a.m.

    Great interview!

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