Top Stories

Arena set to be cautious with Howard, Dempsey, Cameron as USMNT prepares for WCQ

Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today Sports

The first two competitive matches of Bruce Arena’s second time around as U.S. Men’s National Team manager are two weeks away. With time ticking down before the renewal of the Hexagonal round, Arena is trying to figure out the availability of three of his biggest players.

Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey and Geoff Cameron are the players in question for the USMNT ahead of the matches against Honduras and Panama, both of which are imperative to get points out of following a lackluster start under former boss Jurgen Klinsmann.

Dempsey returned to the field on Saturday and scored for the Seattle Sounders in their loss to the Houston Dynamo, while Cameron started for Stoke City for the first time since October. Howard is still recovering from leg surgery and he did not play for the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.

“Between now and when the players report, there’s going to be a lot of issues, so we have a Plan A, a B and a C, and in a lot of cases we’re probably going to go to Plan C,” Arena told the AP. “Two players, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard, may not be available. It may be the case with Geoff. They’ve all been good players for the U.S. team. We’d like to have them all. The reality of the situation is that that’s not likely.”

Dempsey is still working his way back from an irregular heartbeat discovered at the end of the last Major League Soccer season, and his situation is being approached with caution, as it Howard’s.

The USMNT is already without Jermaine Jones and Timothy Chandler for the Honduras match in San Jose, California on March 24 due to yellow card accumulation. The two matches are virtually must-win for the U.S., who could be without several stars as they fight for their World Cup hopes.

“Well, I don’t think we’re hanging on by a fingernail yet, but we’re getting close,” Arena said. “I don’t think we’re there yet, but I think they’re getting a plier out.”


  1. The times are a-changing, and like it or not the USMNT needs to get with the times. We’re talking about a must-win match and are going to be likely missing Jones, Howard, Dempsey, and Cameron, all of whom were not only starters but impact players over the last cycle. The other players are going to have to step up because we are out of time.

    It’s fortunate that Cameron is the most likely to play of that group since he seems like the most important, given the way the defense played last year without him. I know he just got in 90 min with Stoke, but it still seems risky to throw him in so soon after a long injury layoff. Dempsey as a late supersub if we need a goal actually sounds less risky, and a role that suits both him and the team. GK is still an issue since Howard is out, Guzan has had little action, and we haven’t given much game time to the other options.

    The task is doable, but Arena has work to do and some tough choices to make. On top of that the MLS guys are just getting their seasons started, you have to think our players in Germany and England are much more match fit…

  2. If I were to rank the importance of the 3 I’d say it’s as follows:
    1) Cameron – If healthy makes the entire back-line better. He takes pressure off Brooks & Yedlin allowing them to be more comfortable and play to their strengths.
    2) Dempsey – If he’s up to it I’d bring him as a Super-Sub. He’d be a great option to bring off the bench if we need a goal. This is the role I see Dempsey playing going forward as Wood, Jozy, & Morris have the speed & strength to stretch the field. Dempsey would be that change of pace striker giving us a different look/feel.
    3) Howard – He’s the furthest from getting back into the picture and he’s in a position where we have ample coverage against the level of opponents we’re facing in these qualifiers.

    Not concerned with Jones absence/suspension. Again we’re playing Honduras at home so I expect them to bunker and counter. He’ll be available for the Panama match away where his traits/skills will be of more benefit to the team.

    Regardless of how well Chandler plays for his club he’s still our 2nd choice RB. My only concern is if something happens to Yedlin between now and the finish of the Honduras match.

    • Yedlin missed Tuesday’s match due to injury, after the match his manager said it may be more serious than previously thought. Lichaj anyone?

  3. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Clint in San Jose for the first match, but I don’t see him playing in both matches. I don’t see Howard at all as we have able cover for him and he’s not playing yet. Cameron, would seem likely but it is a lot of travel, all the way to San Jose and then down to Panama and back to England. If he’s fit I would think yes, but if there is any doubt on his condition perhaps not.

  4. Off topic but does anybody know what the deal with Dempsey’s heart actually was? I’m always curious about stuff like that.He doesn’t seem to want to talk about it.

    • From what I understood it was heart arrhythmia (don’t quote me on that). Irregular heart beats can cause cardiac arrest, especially when the body is pushed. It usually isn’t a major concern if treated properly.
      A good friend I played with in college was in a similar situation, was out a whole season, I remember him dropping to the ground in pain after running a ball down in the corner, very scary… I do not recall him having surgery though so Dempsey’s situation could be more complicated.

  5. Cameron played 90 minutes last weekend. Dempsey should be good for at least a half. We have enough good midfield and attacking options that 45 minutes from Dempsey should be enough. I’d start him and then bring on a speed guy in the second half (Dempsey, Altidore as strikers, then Wood for Dempsey in the second half).Given our defensive failings in the last two qualifiers, Cameron must be played as long as he can go, with Fabian on the left, Brooks and Cameron as CB’s, and Yedlin on the right.

    • Interesting you have Dempsey and Altidore as starters over Wood. By now I would think most see Wood as a superior option over both of them.

      • Better player or not…. if you are going to put Deuce up top, it seems for sure to me that Wood pairs better w/ Dempsey w/ his activity and superior runs….. somewhat resembles the Dempsey/Martins pairing.

      • The pairing of Dempsey and Altidore has played together much more than any other combination of two out of those three. Dempsey and Wood haven’t played together hardly at all that I can recall and Altidore and Wood maybe a half dozen times. Dempsey is still the best scorer we have, so the pairing I propose makes the most sense to me. I suspect that by the next WC, assuming we make it, Wood will be a starter and Dempsey a late game sub, but for now I’d start Dempsey over anyone else.

    • Wood has to start in whatever scenario I would think too. Having Dempsey off the bench wouldn’t be an awful thing, he can come in up top or withdrawn if we need a goal.

      • Wood definitely has to start, his form and the run of games he’s had along with our other euros would seem to give him the upper hand. I don’t think we nned Geoff or Clint for these two games but i wouldn’t be mad if they were brought in, especially if it’s to get a look at them especially when you consider BA said this camp would have larger numbers than usual!

      • Dempsey is still the most skilled and savvy striker we have. I think it is better to bring on Wood in the second half instead of Dempsey because a speed guy is best against tiring defenses. Wood’s last goal in the Bundesliga where he tracked down a long ball ahead of the defenders and made a good shot to beat the GK shows where he is most valuable. I think he does much better in an open game. When the defense is packed in, as we saw often in the Copa America, he wasn’t nearly as effective, while that is more Dempsey’s forte. Thus, Dempsey to start, Wood in the second half.

      • @ Gary… get where you are coming from. You could also argue having a guy like Dempsey, considering his age, the opponent and recent complications it would make sense to bring in the slower, savvy veteran at the end of the match if a goal is needed. You could also make the case to start both of them. As for wood running on to balls over the top, he is good at that as well as everything else. Back to the goal, crafty little runs through, 1v1, all the above… better than Altidore, especially against better opposition.

      • I’m not sure what would be the logic in starting Clint Dempsey in a home qualifier, when we have a road qualifier just a couple days later against Panama. Deuce could be needed in both games, but no way is he ready for a full 90 in back to back games. If all goes according to plan, he does not play against Honduras, and maybe comes on to help secure a late win down in panama.

    • Can we let these three get a good run of games in and allow them to get comfortable with playing week in and out before we rush them back to the USNT! We have enough talent to get through these 2 games without those three, we just needed someone who could put the players in positons to succeed and i think Arena will do that.


Leave a Comment