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USMNT Notebook: Arena assesses March roster, Dempsey, Johnson and more

World Cup qualifiers are looming for the U.S. Men’s National Team and, for Bruce Arena, that means a roster is beginning to take shape.

According to Arena, the upcoming weekend will be vital for players both domestic and abroad to stake their claim to a potential roster spot. Arena is expected to announce a roster of 23-25 players some time around March 15 with players reporting at some point between March 18-20. Before that, though, there’s a lot to prove as Arena looks to nail down the first competitive roster of his tenure.

“2017 is an important year, and we think a great year for U.S. Soccer is qualifying for the World Cup in Russia in 2018 and positioning ourselves to win the Gold Cup,” Arena said on a Facebook live chat on Wednesday. “Those are certainly going to be our goals. However, we have to look in the short-term. The short-term is preparing a roster for qualifiers March 24 and 28. As you know, we open with Honduras and we’re working real hard to finalize our roster.”

That process began, in earnest, in January as Arena got a look at a group of the top players in MLS. Several less familiar faces were called in, such as Dax McCarty, who Arena says will receive “strong consideration” going forward. Arena kept a close eye on MLS’ opening week and plans to be in attendance for this coming weekend’s clash between Sporting Kansas City and FC Dallas.

The focus then turns abroad. The return of Geoff Cameron is promising and Arena says the coaching staff hopes to have the Stoke City defender in for March qualifiers.  DeAndre Yedlin’s status is a slight concern following a thigh injury, but Arena says that, if healthy, Yedlin will be on the squad.

However, Arena says that Germany is the “starting point” of the squad and a contingent of Bundesliga players is expected to build the core of his team.

“We’ve seen in recent weeks that Fabian Johnson, Christian Pulisic, John Brooks, Tim Chandler, Bobby Wood are playing on a consistent basis and doing well,” said Arena, who also added that Julian Green could be under consideration. “Timmy Chandler’s not eligible to play against Honduras because of suspension, but the other players are doing well and we anticipate that there’s a good chance that they’re part of our roster for the World Cup qualifying matches.”


Arena was as happy as anyone to see Clint Dempsey return to goalscoring form this past weekend. After months on the sideline, the Seattle Sounders forward fired home a goal in his return to the field, helping reignite the debate on whether or not he is ready to return to the international game.

Just last week, Arena said he plans to take it slow with the Sounders star, and he reiterated that idea on Wednesday despite Dempsey’s strong start.

“I think with Clint, we need to be cautious in our approach,” Arena said. “It was great to see him play that opening game in Houston for Seattle and we want to follow him closely again this week to see where he is physically, if he’s getting a little bit sharper, if he’s increasing his workload on the field. We know, obviously, that he’s a very good player and he has a great history with the national team, but we want to be smart about Clint and make sure he’s ready to play international soccer and the next two weekends will be important.

“I’m confident he will be part of the national team at some point in 2017. ”



For years, Fabian Johnson has been an international utility man. He’s filled in at both fullback positions throughout his USMNT career while also thriving as a wide midfielder on the club level.

In 2017, Arena is hoping to see more of the latter as Johnson shifts into a more consistent role in the midfield.

“My thoughts on Fabian are simply this: he plays on a regular basis as a left-sided midfielder at Monchengladbach,” Arena said. “If we can, we want to play Fabian in the midfield. That’s one our goals in 2017: find a position for him and allow him to play it on a consistent basis.”

If and when Johnson moves up the field, the U.S. will have a wide gap at the left back position. Arena says there are a variety of contenders that could step in and hold the position down, ranging from new faces to experienced veterans. Johnson himself, at least for the time being, remains an option, even if the goal is to move on at some point in the near future.

“Jorge Villafana and Greg Garza had good showings in January with us in camp,” Arena said. “Also DaMarcus Beasley showed well in the game with Houston over the weekend. Those are four candidates. Additionally, Tim Ream is a possibility although he plays centrally with Fulham as well as Matt Besler, who plays centerback as well. The last possibility to play that position is Eric Lichaj, who has played both sides at Nottingham Forest.

“We have plans A, B, C, D, E and F at that position and we’re hopeful that we can arrive at the right plan.”


Arena didn’t outright say which goalkeepers would be included for March’s qualifiers, but he did hint at three veterans that could be brought in to lead the U.S. from the back.

The USMNT boss said that Nick Rimando, Tim Howard and Brad Guzan would all be under consideration for March’s qualifiers depending on a number of factors. The biggest remains Howard’s health, as the goalkeeper continues to battle back from a hip injury suffered last fall.

“As we came out of our domestic camp in January, Nick Rimando, David Bingham and Luis Robles were a part of that. I think Nick had a little bit of an edge,” Arena said. “He’s a possibility for our roster in March. Tim Howard, as you know is coming off an injury and didn’t play last weekend. We’re waiting to see if he plays this weekend. If continues to remain healthy and make progress, he’s obviously going to get strong consideration for a call-up in March.

“We’ve followed (Guzan’s) progress. If he continues to stay healthy, I think he’s going to be included on our roster as well.”


The U.S. learned on Tuesday that they would take on Panama, Martinique and either Haiti or Nicaragua in this summer’s Gold Cup, but Arena insisted that it’s important that the U.S. focus on the task at hand for the time being.

Arena says the Gold Cup roster could feature a number of new faces depending on how things shake out in the months to come. With qualifiers coming in March and June, the U.S. has plenty on their plate before the Gold Cup kicks off in July.

Still, the U.S. enters knowing plenty about Panama, their opponents in the second game of March qualifying and likely their toughest group stage adversary in March. Martinique, Haiti and Nicaragua, meanwhile, are a bit more of a mystery to Arena who will shift focuses to this summer’s tournament when the time comes.

“In a perfect world, we’ll win our next four World Cup qualifying games and we relax a little and say maybe we test some young players,” Arena said. “However, it’s an important year for the men’s national team. We want to qualify for Russia in 2018 and we want to win the Gold Cup. In order to do both, we have to take it one game at a time. After the qualifying games in March, we’ll start thinking about how we piece together a roster for the June qualifiers and have a team ready for July as well. Right now, it’s too early to decide, but one would think we would have some newer faces for the Gold Cup.”


  1. To be honest, you could make the case that BB was right about Bornstein and that he was, and still is, the best choice among the players he had available at the time. Look at what he’s done in mexico. When all these coaches are in a guys corner, but a majority of fans refuse to acknowledge his ability, always a head scratcher.

    • Jonanthan Bornstein’s stats in Liga Mx in his first 4 seasons 2010 to 2014.

      -12 matches played (average of 3 matches per season)
      – 5 starts (1.25 starts per season)
      – 405 minutes (101.25 minutes played per season & 33.75 minutes per game)
      – 0 goals (not surprising he’s a fullback couldn’t find assists stats)
      -He only made the matchday roster 41 times out of a possible 136.
      (If you add the Apertura part of his first season with Queretaro, in which didn’t play a match its even worse)

      After the 2011 GC (2011-2014 before his move to Queretaro)
      (5 matches 1 start 131 minutes played over three seasons and two different clubs)

      Good for Bornstein that he’s reinvented himself and found quality time since he moved to Queretaro, but your account that its “just fans” is ignorant of the facts.

    • Condescending or not, I quite literally laughed while reading this. I’m simply refusing to believe it’s serious in nature or tone.

    • A lot of any professional athlete’s success comes down to self-confidence. It was something tht Bornstein had early in his career, but after a couple truly bad outings with the USMNT, he seemed to have lost that confidence. In the last year he seems to have regained it and his play in the last year indicates that.

      Is he the 2nd best or even 3rd, 4th or 5th best left back option for the US, I dunno, but I would never write off a player based upon some bad games he had over 4 years ago.

    • He’s been pedestrian when called up. I have no idea why people claim he was never given a chance.

      Just another example of backup quarterback syndrome fans suffer from.

      • And he really hasn’t been playing much LB lately either (not sure about this season), most of us aren’t watching the Championship on a regular basis so its easy to taught his greatness no one can disprove you.

      • Lichaj & Chandler both looked to be our primary options at fullback during BB’s final days (Lichaj @ LB, Chandler @ RB). Neither have performed up to their club form for the national team since. However, both are still worthwhile depth options for the national team as both are seeing 90 minutes week in, week out. Chandler is a good backup RB or 3rd string LB, and Lichaj as a backup LB or 3rd string RB. They’re still in the mix until someone else can beat them out.

      • Thank you! This dude looks so unimpressive. Listen, I think he is a solid pro and I am glad that he is making a great living in the Championship, but he is not an international level left back at anything past mid-tier CONCACAF.

      • Lichaj & Chandler both looked to be our primary options at fullback during BB’s final days (Lichaj @ LB, Chandler @ RB). Neither have performed up to their club form for the national team since. However, both are still worthwhile depth options for the national team as both are seeing 90 minutes week in, week out. Chandler is a good backup RB or 3rd string LB, and Lichaj as a backup LB or 3rd string RB. They’re still in the mix until someone else can beat them out.

        Not having a go at you, Lost in Space, because I agree with any added depth is a good thing. But, it’d be revisionist history to ignore the real undoing for Bradley was his lack of willingness to look at other primary options at fullback, namely left back, to usurp Bornstein.

        I love Bradley as much as the next guy, but Bornstein and the absolute debacle/collapse against Mexico was a huge catalyst to ousting Bradley. Obviously I have no sincere knowledge other than pure speculation, but for all of us that have played team sports – at a certain point you can love Bornstein as a teammate and person, but realize he’s a complete and utter (embarrassing at times) liability.

        Lichaj’s injury that match ruined what could have been a catapult towards claiming the starting position (because he did appear to be on track), but after being given chances under the new regime, he simply never claimed it and made very little argument for it.

        It’s annoying hearing fans try to put the blame on Klinsmann and absolutely ignore reality. It’s hard to have actual conversations/debates when people can’t even admit what their eyes see.

  2. There is the roster I think most of us fans would like to see, and then there is the roster I think we will actually see. I’ll exclude Howard from the conversation since he still hasn’t return to the field.

    Roster We’ll See (25):
    GK: Guzan, Rimando, Bingham/Robles
    D: Fabian, Garza, Yedlin, Chandler, Cameron, Brooks, Gonzalez, Birnbaum, Lichaj, Zusi
    M: Bradley, Jones, Pulisic, Bedoya, Nagbe, Lletget, Kljestan, Feilhaber,
    F: Jozy, Wood, Morris, Dempsey

    Fan’s Roster Choice (25):
    GK: Guzan, Horvath, Bingham/Robles/Yarbrough
    D: Villafana, Garza, Yedlin, Lichaj, Brooks, Birnbaum, CCV, Miazga
    M: Cameron, Pulisic, Nagbe, Lletget, Feilhaber, Kljestan, Hyndmann, Bradley, Acosta, Fabian
    F: Wood, Morris, Boyd, Green

    • Without further injury here’s what I see, for Honduras

      Guzan, Rimando, Robles
      Lichaj, Chandler, Birnbaum, Gonzo, Cameron, Besler, Brooks, Zusi, Villafana or Garza
      Lletget, Bradley, Johnson, Nagbe, Jones, Bedoya, Klejstan, Feilhaber
      Altidore, Wood, Morris, Pulisic

      Gold Cup what I see
      Horvath, Bingham, Steffan(if he continues to play for Columbus and does well)/Robles
      Zusi, Rosenberry, Birnbaum, Marshall, Miazga, CCV, Garza, Villafana
      Lletget, Gooch, Nagbe, McCarty, K.Acosta, Hyndman, Arriola, Green
      Wood, Dempsey, Morris, Zardes

      Gold Cup is a little harder since some European players may need to be in preseason with their clubs to earn starting spots or if an MLSer makes a midyear transfer. I think if healthy Duece shows for sure to try to break LDs record against the weaker Concacaf opponents.

  3. I don’t think there’s any of us who WANT to see FabJo at LB… both his goals were very nicely taken the other day.
    But with Yedlin questionable & Chandler out game 1… we may have to wait (again) for someone to claim that LB spot

  4. Going to be interesting to see what Arena does with the roster selection. I would likely do something along the lines of this (but I expect to be off by at least 4 spots):

    *Note, players in certain categories may change position on the field (i.e. Cameron to DM or FJ to LM, for example)

    25-Man Roster
    GK (3): Howard, Guzan, Rimando
    Defenders (9): Lichaj, Villafana, Brooks, Birnbaum, Cameron, Gonzalez, Chandler, Yedlin, FJ
    Midfield (9): JJ, Bradley, Pulisic, Williams, Nagbe, Klestjan, Lletget, Zardes, Hyndman
    Forwards (4): Jozy, Morris, Wood, Green

    Potential adds (especially if Cameron, Yedlin, and Dempsey are not used): Horvath, Besler, Bedoya, Hyndman, Arriola, Boyd, Agudelo, Nguyen, Kitchen, Feilhaber, Beasley, Gooch, Spector, Acosta, Garza, Zusi

    *Guzan as GK throughout
    *Hyndman playing well for Rangers, so may consider him playing with or over the likes of Nagbe, Klestjan, Lletget, etc.
    *Use Cameron as the DM and push out Bradley/JJ, or potentially play alongside them, depending on whether we are pushing forward or more on the defensive/counter.
    *If FJ goes forward, I’d like to see Lichaj take over as LB, but that may be considered too much of a “test” given our current qualifier situation (perhaps Villafana or bring in Garza to the roster I noted above).

    I love the fact that we have so many guys playing consistently and well, that it is difficult to create a lineup without wanting to potentially switch guys all over the field. Good problem to have in the general sense, but difficult to pinpoint who is playing the best, minus Wood, Pulisic, FJ, and Brooks (to me, they pretty much have to be on the field and I left out Cameron and Yedlin from that list due to injury/fitness concerns).






    • I think you have to consider the injury to yedlin, if we are to believe the injury report issued by Benitez saying he’d be out 2 weeks which would put Deandre behind the righteous to be called in and additionally do we think it’s worth it to fly Chandler across the ocean for one game?? Hyndman and Williams I think we see in the GC and Zardes is still out injured I believe so I don’t expect to see him either.

    Nagbe, Pulisic, Wood, Green and Johnson in attack will be a hand full for any team during qualifying.

    • They can all watch as Garza or Beasley are beaten as if they are standing still by guys playing in Central America that nobody has ever heard of.

    • Johnson, I think, prefers the midfield, too. Unfortunately, we have no real answer at the vacancy his switch creates. Any of the other names hasn’t proved their worth when given the chances to really stake a claim at that position.

      It’s fun to discuss but we’re essentially taking him away from a weakness and putting him towards a “strength” (if we want to call it that in terms of depth).

      Reminds me of when fans get excited about a striker behind Altidore (or Wood of late). Sure, in a perfect world we’d have someone to compete for a starting place, but the laundry list of names are: inconsistent, under perform, or routinely injured.

      Left back is no different. Johnson moving creates a hole…remains to be seen if anyone proves capable of filling it going towards another World Cup.

    • you’d have to think it’s possible, we have alot of depth at CB and our central midfield options outside of Bradley and JJ are anyones guess


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