Photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
TAMPA, Fla. — When the U.S. men's national team begin their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign on Friday, it seems all but certain that neither Fabian Johnson nor Edgar Castillo will be starting at left back.
U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann all but ruled the two left-sided fullbacks out of the opening qualifier against Antigua and Barbuda at Raymond James Stadium on Friday night, as they continue to nurse respective injuries.
Fabian Johnson is recovering from a calf injury picked up in the warmups prior to last Sunday's friendly against Canada, while his replacement, Castillo, suffered a hamstring injury in Thursday night's practice session at University of South Florida's Corbett Soccer Stadium.
"It's very unlikely that they play," said Klinsmann. "Very, very unlikely."
Johnson could be back for next Tuesday's road fixture in Guatemala, but even that is not certain.
"We don't want to force it," said Klinsmann. "Hopefully it's working out against Guatemala, but we don't want to stretch it too much."
With Johnson and Castillo likely out on Friday and questionable for next Tuesday's road game, Klinsmann could turn to Michael Parkhurst to play left back. Klinsmann could also opt to slide Carlos Bocanegra over from his regular centerback spot and pair two of Oguchi Onyewu, Clarence Goodson and Geoff Cameron in the middle.
Here are more notes from USMNT camp:
ALTIDORE UNLIKELY TO START
Jozy Altidore's late arrival to the U.S. team's training camp this summer appears to be proving costly for him.
Altidore seems unlikely to start versus Antigua and Barbuda on Friday due to a combination of not being as fit as the rest of the team and other players making the most of their opportunities in his absence. Altidore arrived nearly two weeks late to camp due to his club, AZ Alkmaar, not releasing him. He joined the United States on May 28 after playing his final league game of the season on May 6.
"That's a pretty long gap for not training with a team, not doing three training sessions a day like we did in Orlando and this is what you see then," said Klinsmann. "You can see that in every training session that he was then behind and we help him, and we'll work on it.
"He's working hard, and he's positive about it. But then you have somebody else like Terrence Boyd and Herculez (Gomez) against Brazil and they used their chance, they made a very strong case for themselves and the competition is open, it's an open competition.
"It's always about the moment. How do you present yourself right now, not how you maybe present yourself two weeks from now. It's about today, so we need to evaluate, as coaches, where they are right now and make the best decision for the team and for the purpose to get results."
TEAM NOT CONCERNED BY RAINY CONDITIONS
If this week has given any indication as to what the weather will be like around kickoff, fans can expect pouring rain.
Heavy rainstorms have hit Tampa throughout the week, but the United States is not concerned about the wet conditions giving Antigua and Barbuda a bit more of an advantage should they continue on Friday night. In fact, the Americans might even prefer it.
"If it rains, it's not a big deal," said Bocanegra. "The field's wet, the ball slides nicely, we can move the ball quickly."
Who do you think should start at left back against Antigua and Barbuda? Should Klinsmann start Altidore on Friday? Do you see rain helping or hurting the Americans?
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