Right out of the gate, Bruce Arena faced a rash of injuries before the World Cup 2018 qualifiers in March. The USA
dealt with it then, and Arena is confident the USA will overcome the loss of two defensive starters for the matches against Costa Rica and Honduras.
March. DeAndre Yedlin, Fabian Johnson and Bobby Wood -- all starters for the November qualifiers -- were out with injuries when the USA opened the Arena era with a 6-0 win over Honduras. Sebastian Lletget, John Brooks and Geoff Cameron were all injured, though, and missed the next game, a 1-1 tie at Panama.
June. Of those that started in the March qualifiers, only Jermaine Jones and Lletget were missing, though Timmy Chandler was a late scratch after being injured in the German Cup final. Arena got out of the June qualifiers with just one more injury. Jorge Villafana missed the second game in Mexico City though he might not have started as Arena rotated his team, injecting seven fresh starters to deal with the altitude and short turnaround.
September. Yedlin (rehabbing hamstring injury with Newcastle United) and Brooks (ruled out for three months with a thigh injury by his new Germany club, Wolfsburg) are Arena's first choices at right back and left center back.
Graham Zusi, who started at Panama and during the Gold Cup, while Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream, who all started at Mexico, are options alongside Cameron. Villafana, who started the last two weeks at Santos, is the No. 1 choice at left back.
“We’ve been through a number of games this year with a number of players missing, either in the backline and elsewhere," said Arena on Tuesday. "We started in March, against Honduras. We were missing a large contingent of experienced players and yet we survived. I anticipate this time around, despite the fact that we’re going to be missing some good players, our backline will be fine. We’ve gotten a lot of experience together in 2017, and I think whatever players we choose to play on Friday will step up and get the job done.”
Barring last-minute injuries, Arena will have his full contingent of strikers, many in excellent form.
“The combination of [Jozy] Altidore and Wood and [Clint] Dempsey and [Jordan] Morris and [Chris] Wondolowski gives us a lot of options," he said. "They’re very good players and I think the one thing that gives me so much optimism is that they’re all in very good form right now. Whoever we choose over these next couple of games are going to be dangerous, so I’m real comfortable with the group of strikers we have here.”