Bruce Arena has already been in charge of the U.S. Men’s National Team for roughly six months. During those six months, Arena has taken charge of two friendlies and two World Cup qualifiers as the USMNT jumped back into the picture following a rough qualifying start.
Now, with two more vital matches looming, Arena gets his first taste of a full roster, one which is among the strongest USMNT squads put together in quite some time.
Arena named his 27-man squad on Sunday ahead of the USMNT’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico. Following a pair of losses to open the Hex, the U.S. currently sits fourth on the table with a home match against last-place T&T looming. It’s one the U.S. expects to win, especially given the challenge that lies ahead when it comes to visiting the Azteca.
Fortunately for Arena and co., a host of European players have rejoined the fold by being named to an Arena squad for the first time. Due to various injuries and situations, Arena has yet to have a full complement of players, but the USMNT squad is expected to be fully prepared with two massive games looming.
Brad Guzan, Timmy Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Ethan Horvath, Bobby Wood and DeAndre Yedlin return to the squad, joining a 21 players that have previously been called up since Arena took over. The group features plenty of continuity from Arena’s previous to camps, but the addition of several Euro-based heavy-hitters should provide a massive boost.
“I know (the European-based players) have another two weeks left in them,” Arena added. “It’s no secret that we won’t be using many of them during the Gold Cup because they need to have some rest before they start for the new season. The MLS players are at a point where they’re getting pretty fit and sharp, so I think it’s a good time. We have a roster that has good balance all over, we have good young players and hopefully it’s a team we can put together to get us points in both games.”
The new additions should have a major effect on Arena’s plans. Johnson remains an option either at fullback or in a wide midfield role, and Arena has previously stated his preference to play the Borussia Monchengladbach star at the latter. Yedlin is all but penciled in at right back after a standout campaign with Championship champions Newcastle while Timmy Chandler provides fullback depth on either side.
Wood, meanwhile, remains a favorite for minutes at forward. It’s a talented group, one that includes veterans Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey as well as Jordan Morris. However, after a strong campaign with Hamburg, Wood will likely be a key piece of the Arena regime moving forward.
Meanwhile, Guzan and Horvath enter a very interesting goalkeeping picture. They join veterans Tim Howard and Nick Rimando, and the former is likely competing with Guzan for a starting job. The two have been heavily rotated since Howard returned from his post-World Cup break, and it remains to be seen where Arena leans.
“Obviously, Brad had an opportunity to play a number of games at the end of the season with Middlesbrough. Playing on a team that got relegated, it’s not surprising to see that his goalkeeping statistics might not be that impressive. I thought in those games he played well and it’s good experience for him. Rimando is back from an injury and played well over the last week, and Tim Howard has had a good start in MLS. Coming off a suspension has played well of late.
“I think we’re going to camp with three good, experienced goalkeepers. In Ethan Horvath’s case, he’s one of our young, promising goalkeepers that we need to see. We won’t have the opportunity to see him for the Gold Cup, so we wanted to see him in this camp and he’s also from Denver so it worked out pretty well.”
Horvath isn’t the only youngster involved. Christian Pulisic returns, as expected, as does Kellyn Acosta who rejoins a central midfield picture that includes Michael Bradley, Dax McCarty, Alejandro Bedoya and Darlington Nagbe. Paul Arriola brings depth at the wide position while newer faces like Matt Hedges and Jorge Villafana add to the defense.
The group began to come together on Sunday for camp in Denver as the team prepares for the initial match against T&T in Denver on June 8. Prior to that, though, the U.S. will prepare with a friendly against Venezuela at Rio Tinto Stadium. Arena says he expects Venezuela to bring plenty of first team regulars while the altitude in Salt Lake should help ease the transition to the qualifier in the Mile-High City.
Even so, it’s hard not to look ahead with Mexico on the horizon. The match saw its date switched due to Mexico’s participation in this summer’s Confederations Cup, but Arena isn’t concerned. It’s routinely one of the biggest matches of the cycle, and the upcoming clash will be no different as the U.S. brings a full strength squad and plenty of confidence to the Azteca.
As difficult as it is I think it’s a level playing field for both teams,” Arena said. “As part of the agreement to switch the day, we have the opportunity to play at night as opposed to the afternoon so I think that’s a plus for us, but it will require that we have a number of players ready to play. I can guarantee we will not be playing the same team from game one to game two. There will be a number of changes for the game in Mexico, so we’ve built a strong roster to allow us to do that.”