Our 23 USMNT players (plus 2) for September

On late Sunday afternoon, we will know who Bruce Arena is bringing into camp for the World Cup 2018 qualifiers against Costa Rica and Honduras. He'll suit up 23 players for each game. We've drawn up a squad of 25 players, one extra for defensive cover and one wild card.

Three overriding themes:
1. Gold Cup told us a lot. It's hard to overstate the importance of the Gold Cup. The USA won -- momentum -- but the run also made Arena's choices going into the fall easier.
2. Win at RBA, don't get blown out in SPS. Barring some strange outcomes elsewhere -- e.g. Panama result at Azteca next Friday -- the USA controls its own destiny, likely qualifying -- top three -- if it wins its final two home games and doesn't blow its huge edge (11 goals) over Honduras on goal difference.
3. Watch out for those yellow cards. Until now, yellow cards have not been a big factor for the USA -- just 15 in 12 games -- but three key veterans down the spine of the team -- Geoff Cameron, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore-- are all on yellow cards, which carry through the entire 16 games of qualifying.



GOALKEEPERS (3):
Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC)
Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids)
Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

It's hard not to stick with a trusted trio: the three keepers who went to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup under Jurgen Klinsmann and the same three keepers whom Arena picked for the June qualifiers.

Decisions, decisions: Does Arena split playing time -- Howard against Costa Rica, Guzan at Honduras, for example -- like he did in June?

Who's not in squad: The future No. 1 in goal won't likely be decided until after Russia, or whenever the USA's run ends in the current cycle. But there are now a host of candidates: Sean Johnson (age: 28), Bill Hamid (26), Ethan Horvath (22) and Jesse Gonzalez (22). Leaving Rimando in the squad as the No. 3 keeps them all very motivated.

DEFENDERS (9):
*Matt Besler (Sporting KC)
*Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG)
Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER)
Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca, MEX)
Matt Miazga (Vitesse, NED)
Justin Morrow (Toronto FC)
Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG2)
Jorge Villafana (Santos Laguna, MEX)
Graham Zusi (Sporting KC)
*carrying yellow card.

If Arena doesn't bring in Chandler now, he never will. Chandler was called up for the June qualifiers but dropped out at the last minute after being hurt in the German Cup final. Heading into the weekend, the player whose readiness is a concern is Gonzalez, who has been injured. That's why Arena might bring in an extra center back: Miazga.

Decisions, decisions: How does Arena rotate the backline over two games? And does he go back to three in the middle for the away game in Honduras like he did at Mexico.

Who's not in squad: John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin, who will have just missed regaining his full fitness after suffering a hamstring injury. Brooks is likely done for the fall; Yedlin's task will be to get back into the lineup at Newcastle United, now in the EPL.

MIDFIELDERS (9):
Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas)
*Paul Arriola (D.C. United)
*Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union)
*Michael Bradley (Toronto FC)
Jonathan Gonzalez (Monterrey/MEX)
Fabian Johnson (Bor. M'Gladbach/GER)
Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire)
Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers)
Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund, GER)
*carrying yellow card.

Our wild-card pick is Jonathan Gonzalez, not to play but for a look-see, like another Mexican-American, Jesse Gonzalez, was at the Gold Cup. He's starting in central midfield for the best team in Liga MX, so it's hard to overlook him, even if he's only 18.

Decisions, decisions: Again, Arena's approach will be based on the dynamics of the two games -- at home in the first game needing a win vs. away in the second game, in the afternoon heat and humidity, against an opponent playing to stay alive.

Arena will likely start Johnson -- back training with Gladbach -- against the Ticos and shift to Arriola in San Pedro Sula. Other than that, he'll have to decide whether to go with two central midfielders -- Bradley and Acosta -- for both games or start Bradley alone at home.

The big difference between the Costa Rica game in the Gold Cup vs. the Costa Rica game at Red Bull Arena is Arena will have Pulisic next Friday.

Who's not in squad: Based on experience, McCarty should get the nod over Cristian Roldan, but Roldan has been playing great for the Sounders. Gyasi Zardes is having a nightmare season with the Galaxy, but he'd likely be Arena's first choice if Johnson can't go. Kelyn Rowe is now out for 6-8 weeks (sprained knee) but he would have been a longshot to get called up.



FORWARDS (4):
*Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC)
Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders)
Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders)
Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER)
*carrying yellow card.

Easy: The first three have been playing great the last month; Wood is again this season HSV's No. 1 forward.

Decisions, decisions: How does Arena get playing time for all four players? A good problem to have.

Altidore will start, for sure; Dempsey will likely come off the bench, like he did in last two games at the Gold Cup. If Arena goes with one central midfielder at home, he'd likely start Morris, the Gold Cup hero, and save Wood to torment the Honduras defense on the counter four days later.

Who's not in squad: There's been separation between the top four strikers and those Arena also looked at during the Gold Cup: Dom Dwyer and Juan Agudelo, neither of whom has scored in August.

16 comments about "Our 23 USMNT players (plus 2) for September".
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now, August 25, 2017 at 9:58 a.m.

    Win at home and a draw in Honduras would just about do it. Let's go!!

  2. E Velazquez, August 25, 2017 at 11:42 a.m.

    Incredible: rimando is too old too short too out of form , Wake up soccer fans , we can not our future keepers Gonzales and Hobart be left as ignored, can we?

  3. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, August 25, 2017 at 2:42 p.m.

    I don't know who "Hobart" is but three of the four listed above play in MLS so they'd have to miss games for their club to come sit on the bench for the qualifiers. Barring injury, Timmy is our GK this cycle. After Russia, we can figure out who it is going forward.

  4. Wooden Ships replied, August 26, 2017 at 8:48 a.m.

    Must be referring to Horvath. He looked real solid in Colombia. I was hoping Arena would bring him in as one of the three. Not sure if he's getting minutes with his club, but I like his command in the nets.

  5. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, August 26, 2017 at 10:08 a.m.

    Horvath has started all 8 of Brugge's games so far this year. I agree he's most likely the #1 following Timmy. Keep in mind he may be called in. This isn't the actual US squad, it's just the writer's picks.

  6. Wooden Ships replied, August 26, 2017 at 11:15 a.m.

    Yes, maybe I was thinking Paul and Bruce were sympatico. Ahead of myself. That's good to hear he's started every match. Thanks.

  7. E Velazquez, August 25, 2017 at 11:45 a.m.

    Mr. Paul Kennedy: have you ever played football? and how long ?

  8. Dick Miller, August 25, 2017 at 2:13 p.m.

    Does the prejudice against Tim Melia of SKC come from the facts that he was a pool goalie after Chivas folded, that he plays for a small midwestern team, age (he's only 31) or ignorance? He's got the best shutout record in MLS, has stopped **3** PKs and doesn't seem to get rattled. None of the called up keepers have matched him.

  9. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, August 25, 2017 at 2:41 p.m.

    I think he's got the best "shutout record" because he has the best defense in the league in front of him.

  10. Bob Ashpole replied, August 27, 2017 at 1:49 p.m.

    As the article points out there is a lot of depth in the pool at keeper.

  11. Wooden Ships, August 25, 2017 at 6:52 p.m.

    Whichever Keeper (Howard certainly first choice and for both games in my book) we use, I'd sure like to see our posts manned. Witnessed too many goals where it would have not been had there been a man at the post.

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  13. Ben Tulchin, August 26, 2017 at 2:14 a.m.

    What about Danny Williams in midfield? He's starting in the EPL for an undefeated team (Huddersfield) seems like he'd be worth assessing at some point.

  14. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, August 26, 2017 at 10:09 a.m.

    Actually he played 33 minutes as a sub in one game and didn't play in the other one.

  15. Bob Ashpole, August 27, 2017 at 1:44 p.m.

    Good article and good discussion. Bruce's selections will reflect who he thinks give the US the best chance of success today. Whoever he takes, it will be because he thinks the selection is best for qualifying given the current player availability.

  16. Chance Hall, August 28, 2017 at 12:57 p.m.

    Have to agree with Wooden Ships comments. Howard for both games. And wholeheartedly agree with wanting to see our posts manned, especially on the corner kicks. We've given up weak goals because we have no one on the posts. Let's go USA!!!

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