Bruce Arena has selected his first United States World Cup qualifying squad since returning as the USMNT’s head coach. The U.S. will face Honduras on March 24th in San Jose, CA, before heading to Panama on the 28th. With the USMNT already trailing Mexico and Panama by 4 points in the race for the automatic qualification spots, a win over los Catrachos and some kind of positive result against los Canaleros are viewed as more or less essential to American hopes.
Beyond the urgent need for points, a major talking point is the return of Clint Dempsey. The Seattle Sounders attacker had a major scare after a heart abnormality was discovered last September. After months of uncertainty over whether he could carry on playing, Dempsey returned for Seattle’s preseason with the approval of doctors, and has played all 180 minutes for the Sounders this season (scoring one goal in the process).
Elsewhere, D.C. United center back Steve Birnbaum was not called in, with Walker Zimmerman of FC Dallas likely taking his spot. Geoff Cameron is back after an injury absence, as is ageless veteran DaMarcus Beasley. Arena also rather surprisingly opted to leave Benny Feilhaber, Sacha Kljestan, and Timmy Chandler. The former duo not making the squad seems to point towards a flat 442 formation, something Arena has deployed for the bulk of his career as a coach.
DeAndre Yedlin, most likely a sure bet to get called in to start at right back, was injured recently. The resulting call-ups leave Arena with the choice of either deploying Cameron at right back and bringing someone (most likely Omar Gonzalez) in at center back, or keeping Cameron in the middle and starting Michael Orozco, who it’s safe to say is an unpopular call-up.
The full 24-man roster is as follows:
Goalkeepers (3): Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Brad Guzan (Middlesbrough FC), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders (8): Geoff Cameron (Stoke City FC), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Omar Gonzalez (CF Pachuca), DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Tim Ream (Fulham FC), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana)
Midfielders (9): Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire)
Forwards (4): Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Bobby Wood (Hamburger SV), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders)