The June World Cup Qualifiers are here and Bruce Arena has called in 27 players to continue the job he was hired to complete, getting the U.S. MNT to the World Cup.
The U.S. emerged with a 6-0 home win over Honduras and a 1-1 draw at Panama from the Arena’s first two matches back at the helm in March, a pattern the coach would gladly accept against Trinidad and Tobago, June 8, at Commerce City, Colorado, and Mexico, at the Azteca, June 11.
Jermaine Jones is the only regular unavailable to a U.S. side otherwise fortified by the return of Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood and DeAndre Yedlin, all unavailable through injury in March.
Despite Jermaine Jones’ assertion that no one in the U.S. player pool could replace him, Acosta was already making a push to to do just that with his impressive play for FC Dallas this season, now with the Galaxy veteran unavailable Acosta may be set to start in the biggest game(s) of his burgeoning international career.
Arena could also elect to slot Geoff Cameron into the midfield beside Michael Bradley, the Stoke man played extensively as a defensive midfielder for the Potters this season. Chicago Fire veteran Dax McCarty is having another fine year in MLS and is another option.
Arena has named 11 defenders to this roster, so he has options if he plays Cameron further up the field. John Brooks is expected to man the left center back role alongside Cameron or Omar Gonzalez. Arena can choose from DeAndre Yedlin and Tim Chandler at right fullback and Jorge Villafana and DaMarcus Beasley on the left flank.
At 35 Beasley looks like a veteran backup that Arena knows will not flinch if called on, and with Fabian Johnson being named in the midfield Villafana looks like he has earned the coach’s confidence and the starting job.
Michael Bradley, Fabian Johnson, and Christian Pulisic seem like locks to start in the midfield, with Acosta, Nagbe, Alejandro Bedoya, and McCarty all pushing for time. Paul Arriola is most likely a bench option.
Up front Arena will have to fit three players into two spots, with Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, and Bobby Wood vying for playing time while Jordan Morris looks like a late game speed option.
Arena will have a chance to sort some of this out when the U.S. face Venezuela at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah on Saturday, June 3.
After four games the U.S. is fourth in the World Cup Qualifying Group, the Hex. Mexico tops the group with 10 points followed by Costa Rica, with seven and Panama with five. The Americans are next with four points, the same points total as Honduras, although the U.S. lead Honduras by six on goal difference.
Trinidad and Tobago sit at the bottom of the Hex, although the U.S. shouldn’t take the Soca Warriors lightly. Similar to the U.S. T&T had a poor start to the Hex, falling by a combined 5-0 to Costa Rica and Honduras in November before rebounding in March with a 1-0 win over Panama before playing Mexico close in a 1-0 defeat to Mexico at the Azteca.
Three of the six nations qualify directly for the World Cup next summer in Russia, with the fourth place team qualifying for a playoff battle with the fifth place qualifier from the Asian Football Confederation.
U.S. MNT Roster By Position (Club; WCQ Caps/Goals):
GOALKEEPERS (4): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC; 13/0), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL; 0/0), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids; 35/0), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake; 0/0)
DEFENDERS (11): DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo; 33/6),Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City; 11/1), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin/GER; 3/0), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG; 20/2), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER; 3/0), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX; 14/0), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas; 0/0), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 4/0), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX; 2/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG; 6/0), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City; 17/3)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas; 2/0),Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana/MEX; 2/1),Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union; 8/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN; 33/6), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 15/1), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers; 5/0), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 38/18)
FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN; 36/16), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC; 38/18), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 3/0), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER; 8/4)