has been coaching the U.S. national team long enough to know that injuries are part of the game.
You pick a team, get players ready to fly into camp and hold your
breath that nothing happens in the interim.
Then you get players into camp and evaluate injuries and fitness issues to determine their readiness to play one, maybe two games.
The former situation came up late Saturday night. With Arena's 26-player roster set for the Panama and Trinidad & Tobago
games set, Gyasi Zardes
left the LA Galaxy's match in the first half with a groin injury. Within hours of the release of the U.S. roster, Zardes was scratched. No replacement was named.
But it's the latter situation -- the uncertain fitness of several key players -- that will have Arena and his staff sweating out the next 48 hours. March madness.
The injury situation is not as bad as it was for the March qualifiers when the USA lost DeAndre Yedlin
, Fabian Johnson
on the eve of entering camp, Sebastian Lletget
, John Brooks
and Geoff Cameron
were injured in the 6-0 win over Honduras and Jordan Morris
and Michael Orozco
left camp without suiting up.
Brooks and Morris are the only players who have played for the USA in World Cup qualifying since March and will be unavailable because of injuries for Panama
and Trinidad & Tobago games. But probably even more challenging for the U.S. staff is a bunch of players are coming off injuries:
-- Yedlin missed the first month of the EPL season
with Newcastle United with a hamstring injury that kept him out of the September qualifiers but has started the last three games for the Magpies at right back;
-- Jozy Altidore
Saturday for Toronto FC, his first game since Sept. 9 as he was rested with a back condition;
-- Cameron started for Stoke City against Southampton, his first appearance since hurting his
hamstring on Sept. 10;
-- Kellyn Acosta
came off the bench for FC Dallas Saturday afternoon after missing the two previous games with a groin injury; and
-- Matt Besler
kept out of Saturday's key Sporting KC-Vancouver match with a gash on his face picked up three days earlier against the LA Galaxy.
If healthy, all would likely start against Panama or
T&T, or both. 3-5-2 option.
Perhaps even more important, Yedlin, Cameron and Besler in the back and Acosta in central
midfield would all be well positioned to start if Arena returned the 3-5-2 formation the USA finished the Honduras game.