Bruce Arena’s return to the USMNT started a couple of weeks ago, with a 30-man roster called in for the traditional January camp. That group has been cut down to 23 for two friendlies (today against Serbia, and Friday against Jamaica). With the United States sitting in an extremely perilous spot in World Cup qualifying, getting this almost entirely domestic-based squad up and running is vital; many of these players will be called in for the crucial qualifiers against Honduras and Panama in late March.
Key player: Steve Birnbaum
With Taylor Kemp among the players sent home and Bill Hamid unable to participate in camp, D.C. United’s representation in the squad is down to Birnbaum. It seems safe to predict that he’ll be in the squad for those aforementioned qualifiers, and he will most likely see significant minutes today. After all, Arena’s remaining group of players include only three center backs (Birnbaum, Chad Marshall, and Walker Zimmerman). Of that group, Birnbaum occupies a sweet spot: he’s more experienced than Zimmerman, and has been part of the USMNT set-up more recently than Marshall.
Today isn’t make-or-break for Birnbaum, but it is one more opportunity for him to underline that he deserves to start for the US when the games count. He probably has the edge over his peers in this camp, but Arena will still have a chance to call in John Brooks in March, and players like Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler could be back from injury by then. Birnbaum could make a statement with a dominant performance.
Location: Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego, CA)
Kick-off time: 4:00pm Eastern
Available TV: ESPN2 (English), UniMas (Spanish), Univision Deportes (Spanish)
Available streaming: WatchESPN (English), Univision Now (Spanish)
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
Treat this as the gamethread for today’s game.