Bruce Arena: 'We're caught up to speed' on USMNT pool

Former U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann was notorious for waiting until the last minute to make decisions.

His successor, Bruce Arena, is expected to announce on Wednesday his squad for the critical World Cup 2018 qualifiers against Honduras and Panama.

The first qualifiers of the year in the Hexagonal always pose a challenge for the USA as MLS is just starting. Arena said the first weekend of play in MLS was no surprise.

"It's like the opening part of every season in every league," Arena said after the Gold Cup groups were announced earlier this week. "Teams aren't fully fit, they're not fully coordinated, there's very little combination play. It's the same with every league around the world as they open their seasons. MLS is no different. It's going to take all of our teams some time to really move forward and have our teams looking a little sharper."

Those issues put extra importance on the form of the players playing abroad. Fortunately, many U.S. players in Germany and Mexico have been playing well.

“There have been real positive weeks with Fabian Johnson and Christian Pulisic, Bobby Wood and John Brooks. Timmy Chandler has been playing consistently as well,” he said of the German-based group. “It’s good in England to see Geoff Cameron played this past week, so that’s encouraging. Omar Gonzalez in Mexico has played consistently. We have some players at Tijuana that have been playing on a regular basis. We have an interesting pool of players to consider for these games in March.”

Arena will announce a group of about 25 players on Wednesday, but he admitted there could be changes after the following weekend.

"We're caught up to speed with everyone in our pool," he said. "We have a pretty good understanding of what we're going to do. We still have a couple of weeks still to play out and [hope] no crazy things happen in the short period of time. So before we can finalize out roster we have to see players get through these next couple of weeks healthy and see if some make progress and that will help determine whether we can utilize some of the Major League Soccer players."

When pressed about the players whose progress he will monitor, Arena would not elaborate, but two players returning from long layoffs are the two players he had on his World Cup 2006 team: Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard.

“It was great to see him play in the opening game in Houston for Seattle,” Arena said in a Facebook chat of Dempsey, who is playing again after missing the last three months of the 2016 MLS season with a heart ailment. “I want to follow him again this weekend and really see where he’s at physically -- if he’s getting a little bit sharper, if he’s increasing his workload on the field. We know he’s obviously a very good player and has a great history with the national team."

With Jozy Altidore, Bobby Wood and others available up front, Arena doesn't need to rush Dempsey back into the team.

“But we want to be smart about Clint," added Arena, "and make sure he’s ready to play international soccer. The next two weekends are going to be very important so we’ll follow him closely but I’m happy to see he’s back on the field and I’m confident he’ll be part of the national team at some point in 2017.”

Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando look set to get call-ups in goal, and Arena will be looking to see if Howard, out since being injured in the Hexagonal opener against Mexico in November, plays Saturday when the Colorado Rapids travel to the New York Red Bulls.

"If he’s healthy and continues to make progress," said Arena, "he’ll obviously get strong consideration for the call-ups in March.”

Two positions in the state of flux are right back (where Chandler is suspended for the Honduras game and DeAndre Yedlin is nursing a hamstring injury) and left back (where half a dozen players are being looked at), and a lot will be known about Arena's plans when he decides on a position for Johnson.

“My thoughts on Fabian [are] simply this," Arena said in his Facebook chat. "He plays on a regular basis as a left-sided midfielder at Moenchengladbach, and if we can, we want to play Fabian in the midfield. So that’s obviously one of our goals in 2017, is to find a position for him and allow him to play it on a consistent basis.”

At left back, Jorge Villafana impressed in the second friendly against Jamaica in early February, but he was only available because he isn't starting for Santos. Arena did say he watched Villafana in Santos' Copa MX match against Club America and he noted he played very well.

Other options include Greg Garza and DaMarcus Beasley whom he had in January camp, Matt Besler, who started the first two Hex games at left back but missed January camp after undergoing ankle surgery, and Tim Ream and Eric Lichaj, who both play in the English League Championship.

“We have plan A, B, C, D, E and F in that position,” said Arena.

19 comments about "Bruce Arena: 'We're caught up to speed' on USMNT pool".
  1. Nalin Carney, March 10, 2017 at 10:02 a.m.

    Seems as though Bruce Arena has the MNT program back on track !

  2. Bob Ashpole, March 10, 2017 at 11:25 a.m.

    Good article.

  3. frank schoon replied, March 10, 2017 at 12:02 p.m.

    Bob, waiting for the last minute is what Cruyff does in deciding who is going to play. He wouldn't know the line up until after he saw his players on the field during pre-game warm ups. If he didn't notice you, you wouldn't start. He's looks at your eyes and sensing presence about you. If he doesn't a presence, you're not playing...

  4. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, March 10, 2017 at 2:33 p.m.

    Cruyff has nothing to do with this but thanks.

  5. Nick Daverese, March 10, 2017 at 2:09 p.m.

    I would make up my mind on who will start by the last practice before the game. It gets them to push themselves during the practice. But they don't know until game day.

    Frank should every player be able to do the cruyff move so they can reverse their direction without help from another player. How about shooting right after it. You don't need much space to shoot if you can shoot right after it.

  6. frank schoon replied, March 10, 2017 at 2:43 p.m.

    Nick, shooting with the left or right after the move. Have you seen the "Gerald Vanenburg- Van Straat tot Stadion(1984)" on Youtube ..go see it . it is in dutch and fast forward the interviews...

  7. Nick Daverese, March 10, 2017 at 2:17 p.m.

    When I first moved here the club I was with would give out the starter shirts just before the game. So everyone with push themselves in practice to have a chance to get that starter shirt. I liked the idea so much I stole it and used it myself with others teams and clubs I managed.

    Then with you put a bench player to replace a starter. You had to tell him why the starter was coming out. Then what you wanted to see from him in order to stay in the game. You had to make him believe he was just as important as the starter you took off the field.

  8. frank schoon, March 10, 2017 at 2:51 p.m.

    Nick , I agree but what I also found the best time to coach the players and make them understand the game, is when they are sitting watching the game from the bench. I tell them there and then and show them the mistakes the team is making on the field, every moment. By seeing it happen in front of their faces imprints it faster. So when they go on the field they can understand better what not to do.

  9. Nick Daverese, March 10, 2017 at 3:06 p.m.

    I used to use the bench players to watch the opponents warmup before we took the field. Especially watch their keeper some are better diving to one side then the other.

    If they saw something and if it made sense to me we would try it. Them if it worked I would go wild with praise to the bench player who saw it. I am convinced it helped to produce a lot of coaches in later life.

  10. frank schoon replied, March 10, 2017 at 4:40 p.m.

    Nick, read the comments on Ernst Happel in What They're Saying: Carli Lloyd"

  11. frank schoon, March 10, 2017 at 4:32 p.m.

    Nick, I would when it has previously previous rained make the attackers and defenders walk around the field to look for any puddle around the penalty or goal area. For a little puddle could reduce the speed of the ball ,throwing off the goalie's timing and the opponent's defenders.

  12. Nick Daverese, March 10, 2017 at 11:46 p.m.

    Haha we did that too wow. Also the home teams uses things like that as part of their home field advantage. Not all sides of the field are the same :) we used to play our home games at a college field it had Astro turf. You could not pay a long ball too close to the flank. If you let it bounce you lost it. Everyone hated to play on it including our own players. Then we changed our game. We turned that field into a home field advantage for us.

    If you ever played at MetOval for years their was no grass on that field. Can't tell you how many games were played on that field in a week. When it rained it was flooded. They played on it any way. You could not dribble on it. So every ball you had to put air under it. If you let that ball bounce it didn't. It justed floated on the water. It was also designed like German stadiums used to look it had a railing about 2 yards off the touch line. Teams did agaility drills using that railing. Like go under it and then go over it. Under and overs.

    Teams that never played there before thought their players could get hurt hitting into it during games.

    Game was more fun to play in those days

  13. frank schoon, March 11, 2017 at 11:41 a.m.

    Nick, where is MetOval?. Those railings are excellent. I would use it for the kids to work on body balance by trying to walk on it. I want all these soccer fields to have a railing or a PVC pipe about a foot off the ground for kids to learn balance. The kids that grew up playing in the streets of Holland had excellent balance for didn't want to fall on concrete and especially in Amsterdam we would walk on the railings of bridges on the canals

  14. Nick Daverese, March 11, 2017 at 12:37 p.m.

    Maspeth in Queens, NYC.

    On agility we did over and unders using dutch gates with kids gates. Also did hurdling using them. They were lower then regular hurdles. We did hurdles then sprints and under the gates and sprints.

  15. Nick Daverese, March 11, 2017 at 12:44 p.m.

    The owner of the old Long Island rough riders redid the field years ago. We had his son with our team he was one of our three forwards. We played with two and one came off the bench. He was a sub. Our stupid parents used to complain out loud every time he came in. He was a good kid and his father donated a lot of money to our club.they would still complain well his parents heard the parents and put their kid on another club. Then that club started to go to tournaments that they could not afford to send them before.

  16. frank schoon replied, March 11, 2017 at 12:48 p.m.

    Nick, those things do happen.LOLOLOL

  17. Bob Ashpole replied, March 11, 2017 at 2:57 p.m.

    You would think after a certain age and level parents would stop being a problem. Apparently not.

  18. Nick Daverese, March 12, 2017 at 9:44 a.m.

    We had a lot of foreign kids. The parents were working poor. They never went to their kids games or practices because they worked a 6/7 day week. I like them because they let us deal with their kids and we did not have to deal with them.

  19. frank schoon replied, March 12, 2017 at 12:30 p.m.

    Nick, glad you're helping them out and one good thing also they have a good coach !

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