Facing a must-win scenario, Bruce Arena turned to a group of U.S. Men’s National Team regulars for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers. Included in that group is a bit of a surprise: Clint Dempsey.
Dempsey joins Tim Howard, Geoff Cameron and Michael Bradley to headline a 23-man roster that includes 19 players with World Cup qualifying experience. The U.S. kicks off qualifying on March 24 against Honduras at Avaya Stadium before traveling to Panama for the second match of the round. Players are set to report to San Jose on March 19.
“We put together a roster that we think has balance and one that gives us an option in playing a number of different ways,” Arena said. “It’s a roster where the primary rationale is to help us be successful in these two games, but we’re also looking down the road and bringing in some young players that we think have an opportunity to be an important part of the National Team program as well. Our approach to these games is simple: we want to win.”
Dempsey, Cameron and Howard return to the fold after missing time during the previous qualifiers, which saw the U.S. fall to Mexico and Costa Rica. Dempsey recently returned to game action for the first time since being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat late last summer. Howard rejoined the Colorado Rapids this past weekend after recovering from a hip injury suffered during the last round of qualifiers. Cameron, meanwhile, recently overcame a knee issue to return to the Stoke City starting lineup.
Headlining the crop of young players is Christian Pulisic, who is riding a wave of impressive form with Borussia Dortmund that has produced three goals in a four-game stretch. Also included in the group are fellow newcomers Jorge Villafana, Sebastian Lletget, Walker Zimmerman and Kellyn Acosta, while Dax McCarty also earned a call-up following a strong January camp.
Another interesting wrinkle is Fabian Johnson being listed as a midfielder. Arena stated on FS1 that he intends to play Johnson as a left winger, and will rely on DaMarcus Beasley, Jorge Villafana and Tim Ream to handle left back responsibilities. That would also mean the very real possibility of Michael Orozco starting at right back.
Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando join Howard as goalkeeping options, while Dempsey is joined atop the field by Jozy Altidore, Jordan Morris and Bobby Wood. Jermaine Jones was included among the midfield call-ups, although the midfielder will be required to sit out the match against Honduras due to suspension.
Notable absences are headlined by DeAndre Yedlin, who is nursing a thigh injury suffered while with Newcastle.
Here’s a closer look at the full U.S. roster:
Goalkeepers (3): Brad Guzan (Middlesbrough), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders (8): John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas)
Midfielders (9): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)
Forwards (4): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Bobby Wood (Hamburg)