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.
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
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
-- FC Dallas youngsters Walker Zimmerman
(previously uncapped) and Kellyn Acosta
(before the latter
-- Dax McCarty
(a late arrival following his wedding);
(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
(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)
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.