Bruce Arena’s “What me worry?” reaction to his “B” team’s group stage efforts against Panama (1-1) and minnows Martinique (3-2 win), and Nicaragua (3-0 win) was betrayed when Arena added six national team stalwarts to his callow side ahead of tonight’s quarterfinal matchup with El Salvador.
The coach took advantage of Gold Cup rules to add goalkeepers Tim Howard and Jesse Gonzalez, midfielders Michael Bradley and Darlington Nagbe and forwards Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey at the expense of keepers Brad Guzan and Sean Johnson, midfielders Alejandro Bedoya, Cristian Roldan and Kelyn Rowe, and forward Dom Dwyer.
Bedoya, Man of the Match versus Nicaragua, left to attend the birth of his child, while NYCFC custodian Johnson was the lone player on the roster not to see action. It was somewhat of a surprise that Arena sent home Dwyer, who scored two goals in his first three international matches, and Rowe who also broke his duck, while generally impressing but with the Gold Cup there to be won the coach turned to his “old reliables.”
With Howard’s arrival, it made sense that presumed second choice Brad Guzan was sent to join his new Atlanta team for the first time, although it is at least worth considering whether Bill Hamid’s solid effort versus Nicaragua has elevated the DC United man in Arena’s eyes.
As to the players brought in, it’s difficult to argue with Arena’s choices and while it would be nice to Christian Pulisic in this group, the teenager’s two assist performance versus AC Milan on Tuesday indicates that the young man is right where he needs to be at this moment.
Arena has said that it is unlikely that Gonzalez will see action, making this more of an introductory session for the young FC Dallas keeper, who recently pledged his allegiance to the U.S. MNT over the Mexican nats.
Howard, Dempsey, Bradley, Altidore, and Nagbe will most assuredly be counted on by Arena from the off and tonight’s quarterfinal versus El Salvador should be a one sided affair, setting up a tasty semi-final against Costa Rica or Panama.
Goalkeepers: Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas) Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids)
Defenders: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Matt Miazga (Chelsea), Justin Morrow (Toronto FC), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna, MEX), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)
Forwards (4): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution; 25/3),Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN; 104/37), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC; 134/56), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 19/4)