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Dempsey, Howard, Cameron headline USMNT squad for World Cup qualifiers

Photo by Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today Sports

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)


  1. Steve Birnbaum should be one of the starting center backs. Solid defender, good passer, and an X factor in the air on set pieces.

  2. While I understand we’re missing some players due to injury/suspension (Chandler, Lichaj, Yedlin, Kljestan, etc…) and that these are must win games; I still have to question some of the players selected…..
    1) There are 6 CB’s on the roster (Cameron, Brooks, Ream, Orozco, Zimmerman, & Gonzalez. . Orozco & Ream are not fullbacks…nor are they worth a call-up. Not a fan of Gonzo either as he tends to have a brainless moment every game.
    2) Still can’t understand McCarty’s inclusion. He brings nothing to the squad that already has 3 CDMs (Bradley, Jones, Acosta) that are better.
    3) I’d prefer if the 3rd keeper was someone other than Rimando….a career 3rd string international. How can we ever expect to replace our aging keepers if we never give them a chance to experience time with the Sr. National Team.
    4) Still surprised that we’re hanging onto some of these OLD Players. A few I can understand, but at some point it has to stop.

  3. Arena will get fired when we don’t qualify right? And if we qualify, can we fire him for a better coach? Because surely there’s no one who thinks this is the guy who can progress our national team right?

  4. I used to be in agreement that Jozy didn’t work hard enough defensively. But this last year there has been a change in his game. Playing alongside Giovinco, who is feisty and aggravating without the ball, has really had an impact on Jozy. He is a big guy, so he will never be all over the place wreaking havoc with speed. But he has learned how to pick his spots. I think Wood up top with Jozy just off set and a bit deeper could be effective. Jozy does pass well. His touch has improved, its far from silky, but serviceable at this point. Dempsey at the 65 minute mark for Jozy would be my preference.

    I think you have to play Orozco at right back. Omar has a brainfart at least once a game for the USMNT, and almost always costs you a goal. So Cameron has to start in the center with Brooks in my opinion. But then again I haven’t won any championships anywhere coaching, so I will pull for the old Red, White, and Light Blue. Here’s hoping Arena is right.

  5. Wood
    Johnson – Dempsey – Pulisic
    Nagbe – Bradley
    Villafana – Brooks – Cameron – Orozco

    DEF: Copa America showed that Brooks and Cameron should be partnered together as CB’s. Villafana and Orozco are honestly the best Outside Backs on the roster.

    MID-Center: Bradley is automatic. Nagbe, this is the same role he plays for the Timbers. Also, Nagbe does thrive in a purely attacking role as he is not selfish enough. He plays best when he is the link between the CDM and CAM. He is also really good at possession in tight spaces. This team will need that away from home.

    MID-WIDE: Johnson and Pulisic are the best wide players on the roster.

    FWD: Wood can create more space for him and his team with his runs and hold up play better than Altidore. Also, Wood is in the middle of his season while Altidore is only 2 games in.

  6. ……………..Wood…………….

  7. The pairings/combination of players is gonna make or break this thing.
    -Cam & Brooks as a pair is great the way they compliment each other..I think a pairing of Brooks and Omar is a bad combo since it looks like Cam will be the RB.
    -BA said Bradley will be the captain. The concacaf teams have figured out how to pressure him and close him down…doesn’t take a genius to see it. Without enough quicker technical players around him things could be the same…So Bedoya should not be on the field..
    -BA also basically said Wood will start…he also said he probably sees Deuce’s role as a 15-20 minute player. Depending on the formation, Jozy and Deuce can’t be on the field at the same time, not enough defensive hustle/work rate-can’t have that from 2 forwards.
    -BA said Fabian will be the left wing. I’m curious if he’s thinking about a 4-2-3-1 with Bradley paired with Llegett and Fabian Nagbe and CP under Wood..
    -Sucks Yedlin is out.. Can Zimmerman play RB??

    • Perhaps my biggest disagreement with this roster is the exclusion of Birnbaum. Is he hurt? Because if he is healthy and you play Cameron at RB, I’m much more comfortable with Birnbaum in the middle than Omar who had some terrible games last time out.

      • Maybe he sees Zimmerman as a starter with Omar as his backup at RCB? Brooks and Omar is not an effective pairing.
        Or maybe we’ll be surprised and see Orozco start at RB

  8. If Bruce was wanting to play the best attacking players in there best position then it would be Wood alone up top where he has been in form with club and FJ on the left and CP22 in the middle or on there right. If he is in the middle put Bradley and Acosta behind him, that gives u a DCM and a box to box guy in Acosta. Nagbe on the right and I think that is a pretty solid front. And people will say nagbe plays better on the left but is he better than FJ, no.

    • Would definitely be my lineup of choice, other than I probably would put Nagbe on the left. Not because he’s better than FJ, but because FJ is probably more adaptable.

      • I think Bruce has made it clear he wants FJ playing on the wing in what he considers his most effective and Natural position. Considering that’s what he plays for gladbach

  9. All these people calling for Wood/Dempsey to start with Altidore sitting are missing some key points. There’s no question Wood is in great goal scoring form, but you have to realize that at Hamburg almost all of their chances are on the counter – where Wood excels. They are a weaker team in the Bundesliga that cedes possession and hits fast with balls over the top.

    This first game (and probably both) will be the opposite. The US will have to break down teams sitting in banks of 4. Jozy is a much better passer than Wood so he will be valuable here. I would start Jozy/Wood personally, but just realize there won’t be space in behind for Wood to capitalize on unless Jozy creates it for him.

    • I called for Altidore and Dempsey to start with Wood coming on shortly after half time for the reason you state about Wood being better in running onto the ball. The other thing is that Dempsey is, along with Brian McBride, the best striker at heading the ball the US has had. In a game where the defense is packed in, that’s important. Then you play Wood when the defense is tired and the game opens up.

      • I would see it as the exact opposite. Wood has the energy and speed, is deep in his season, Dempsey is a few games in after a long layoff. Let wood go at them, wear them out and IF a goal is needed bring in crafty ole reliable against dead legs

      • I wouldn’t put Dempsey in that class. McBride was one of the world’s great headers of the ball.

  10. Bruce has a tough ask of him in this situation. On the one hand, he HAS to produce results to get us to Russia. That is obvious to everyone.

    The other part of this is preparing for (and after) Russia. Bruce has said it himself: The World Cup is a young man’s game. And for the first time in a long time, and at this scale ever, we have a young generation of players coming up that are going to challenge for playing time in that tournament.

    The trick is getting them developed in time. The Gold Cup will surely help, and there will be another January camp, and the preparation games for the tournament (should we qualify).

    You still have to feel that it took a while for the youth movement to start happening in MLS, and compounding our issues is that the crop of youngsters prior to the current kids didn’t pan out that well at the international level. (Or even club level, in some cases) So, I think we’ll be putting in some really, really young talent into the national team program with a very short window to develop them.

    So, while getting to Russia for the World Cup is certainly a challenge, the real test may be in how we can integrate the next generation into the program quickly.

    • While I understand the challenge facing Arena in trying to qualify when we’re in as deep a hole as we currently are the fact remains that he’s relying on many of the same players who put us in this hole to begin with.
      1) We’re still relying too much on Jones, Dempsey, Beasley & Howard.
      2) Instead of giving valuable experience to younger perspective options we’re still giving time to players who’ve shown multiple times that they don’t have the quality to play internationally… McCarthy, Gonzalez, Ream, Orozco, Rimando, Marshall, Zusi, etc…

      You can’t integrate young talent unless you call them into camps. They need time around our core in order to develop and understanding of how interact. They don’t necessarily have to play, but training with them will make the transition easier.

      I’m getting ready for 2 really ugly games where we bunker and try and get a goal off a set piece.

  11. I will always go down as a person who thought JK got the short end of the stick and an aging and limited talented player pool (with a lot of youth promise that was always going to take time when the of the priors youths didnt step up), but the exclusion of Kjlestan and Feilhaber two WC veterans, in a “must win” will hopefully put a nail in the coffin of their utility at the international level – they had their chances and never consistently impressed. They had their shot again with BA and guess what? They are ghost again. JK was right, time to move on from them.

  12. Some quick notes for those who hadn’t heard from the roster presentation on FS1: Yedlin and Lichaj are both out because of injuries. Chandler wasn’t called in because Bruce didn’t think it made sense to fly him across the water for one game.

    Looking at the roster it seems evident that Pulisic will be pulling the strings as CAM, with Fabian and hopefully Nagbe on both sides but it’s more feasible to think it will be Bedoya on the right. I really like the roster, especially the midfield sans Bedoya, because it’s a really technical and offensive minded bunch in the winger and attacking positions. Acosta deserved the call up with his early play thus far in MLS and CCL, as has Dax in Chicago. The calls for Hyndman and Arriola(who i wanted to see and thought deserved a call up) will probably have to wait until the summer in the GC. Here is how i think we will line up on the 24th:


    Fabian J————–Pulisic————-Nagbe/Bedoya


    Timmie H.

    • 2nd person to leave out Bradley and only put 10 men on the feild lol. yall might say its a mistake but we all know subconsciously you just dont want to see him start.

    • No go on Gonzalez.. I say that knowing he will never be able to hack it against high equality competition. Can he handle these games? Probably. But He’s the last person I want to depend on.

  13. Don’t understand people clamoring for Chandler. The man played about 30 games for the USMNT. In most of them his play was horrible; in a few — passable, at best. Yet so many still want to see him. Is that because he plays in the Bundesliga? I don’t know and don’t care how well he does there. I do know that he’s been consistently very poor for the US team.

  14. I hated, Orozco, Ream, Beasley has no more
    what to do in usmnt, he left out options much better
    in all sectors: Chandler, yedlin, lichaj, rosenberry,
    vincent, birnbaum, horvath, steffen, hyndman,
    kljestan, Williams … the only good thing was zusi
    and wondo outside

  15. Without Sasha, im betting CP17 will be our CAM. He may start Lletget in the middle and CP out wide, but im thinking CP will eventually be moved into the middle and run our offense.

  16. Hyndman , Arriola, and Yedlin are the biggest surprises. I had Hyndman penciled in as a number 8 next to MB.. I am not sure what he needs to do to earn a call up.. WHY JONES WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY

    • Yedlin is injured

      Arriola doesn’t really provide something we don’t already have in Nagbe, Pulisic, Johnson and Morris (perhaps Arena holds a grudge because Paul ditched Galaxy for Los Xolos, no only JK could hold a grudge)

      Hyndman has very little pro experience (32 matches, 1/4 coming in the last month and a half even less with the other members of this national team, Gold Cup should be his time.

    • Why, because Jones is a big time player. Handyman is a prospect, if you think he would be better then Jones your delusional. Im sure you think he is more technical but your wrong. People get all excited about the young, the unproven, reality is tough to swallow, aside from Pulisic most of the young players are not ready for the big time.

      Please dont think that Hyndman would step on the field and make any sort of difference.

  17. For me, some really head-scratching inclusions/exclusions. But, given the players in camp, I’d like to see the following against Honduras:

    FJ/Pulisic/Lleget or Nagbe

    Zero threat from overlapping on the right side with either Ream or Orozco. Not having Lichaj in camp seems odd. Jozy up top to start wouldn’t be horrible, considering his hold up play/distribution potential with Pulisic finding space behind him.

    Feel strongly that Pulisic has to be central for this team. Worried that there is not a lot of speed (at all) in this camp, save for Morris.

    • Ream is not a RB and to my knowledge has never played there regularly. Orozco or Cameron would be the two with the most experience in that spot. Ream has played exclusively as a LCB this season for Fulham.

      • Fulham evaluation of Tim Ream before the season started. I think this is right. His utility is what gets him in the squad. Ream has always been a conundrum of a player. Is he a center back? Is he a left back? Is he a defensive midfielder? Is he just a swiss army knife you keep on squad to plug holes as needed? Since first suiting up in the Championship with Bolton he’s played center back in a back four 42 times. He’s played left back 58 times. He’s played center back in a back three 11 times. He’s played as a defensive midfielder six times. And he even has a handful of appearances at right back, right midfield, and left midfield. Is he starting quality at any of those positions? I’m not sure. But having one player who can play at least three positions and can play a fourth in a pinch is valuable.

  18. Dare we say 3-4-3?

    • I actually really like that idea. FJ and Pulisic each have the pace and stamina to track back and help when needed and that gives us plenty of fire power up front

  19. No Kljestan, Zusi and Chandler are the big surprises for me. If Timmy can’t make this squad after the form his been in (minus Saturday’s game) you have to think he’s gotta be done with the USMNT.

  20. No Sasha??? Taking Dempsey is a mistake…
    I’ll bet we qualify thru the playoff only, if that.
    Hope I am proved incorrect

    • I think Dempsey might be a risk as a starter. Even before his injury, he could barely last a whole game. Coming on a sub though, you gotta give him that chance. He has won us some very difficult concacaf games.

    • It was just something to complain about. Folks didn’t like Klinsy or a guy who had a real good year in the MLS, not being included because of immaturity, poor defensive work rate, or just not good enough, was something to yell about. Another coach, same evaluation. Somebody once said, “if Benny has a problem with JK, and Benny has a problem with the coach at Aarhus, and Benny has a problem with Arena… Benny has a problem.”

  21. Chandler’s and Lichaj’s exclusion is odd; Hyndman’s is disappointing, Vilafana’s a somewhat welcome surprise (Acosta equally welcome, though less surprising). Assuming Johnson plays midfield instead of wingback, we’re going to be awfully weak on those wingback positions. No idea how this is all going to play out. This could be just fine, but it could flame out pretty spectacularly.

    • Chandler might have been left off because he is suspended for one game. We already included Jones who will not be available for the first game, so maybe we don’t want to be caught short on players. Lichaj is perplexing, though. I also wouldn’t rule out Ream for left back.

      • Forgot about Chandler’s suspension. You might be right. With the fullbacks on the roster I have to think this is going to be a straight 4-4-2 with very little overlapping.

    • I think Sasha’s exclusion and Jones’ inclusion are the two big surprises (Chandler being available for only 1 game is as well).

      If Fj plays in midfield, I am worried about the speed we don’t have at fullbacks. I don’t think any of the likely suspects have much speed, that means they cannot recover quickly. I think that dictates the defense must play deeper and since we should have quite a bit of possession the whole team could get stretched too much. Of course, Arena may be planning to take more of a sit-back and counter approach in which case the slower fullbacks don’t matter as much while their defensive brains matter more (Ream is the prime example of that).

      With Wood, Pulisic, FJ and Morris all being able to attack with pace, countering may make some sense.

      • Probably pretty close. I would probably expect Altidore to start with Dempsey coming on as a sub.

      • I agree on Altidore over Dempsey to start I just think wood and Altidore play the same role and wood just does it better at this point so I’d rather see someone who plays more of a false 9/second striker next to Wood, dropping back to collect the ball . I think that might be where Pulisic lands eventually, but maybe not yet.

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