Bruce Arena was advertised as the pair of safe hands needed to dig the U.S. MNT out of the 0-2 hole dug for it by his predecessor Jurgen Klinsmann and while Arena surprised with a successful three back formation in a crucial 1-1 draw with Mexico, the coach has been much as promised.
Compiling a 2-0-2 in World Cup Qualifying play Arena has followed the script of winning at home and looking to tie on the road. The 26 player roster selected by Arena for a pair of WCQ, Friday in New Jersey and next Tuesday in San Pedro Sula, Honduras hews to that same conservative template.
The plan has been effective and if the Americans can defeat Costa Rica, no easy task, at Red Bull Arena, Friday evening at 6:30, then the U.S. MNT will head to Trinidad with visions of Russia 2018 dancing in their heads.
Arena was unable to call in his best fullback DeAndre Yedlin, the Newcastle speedster picked up a poorly timed hamstring injury. Arena then declined to issue an invitation to Tim Chandler the 27-year-old Eintracht Frankfurt defender who has mysteriously never been able to duplicate his Bundesliga form for the U.S.A.
Instead, Arena has called in Graham Zusi, a recent convert to the position from midfield and Eric Lichaj, who has been unable to claim a starting position for Nottingham Forest this season after winning the club Player of the Year honors in 2016-17.
Bruce 2.0 also kept faith with one of his originals, DaMarcus Beasley, selecting the 35-year-old Houston Dynamo defender, who now seems to have a real chance of playing in a fifth World Cup. You have to wonder if Landon Donovan is somewhere looking for his boots!
With 26 players to choose from Arena is likely planning to rotate his lineup for the two matches, so look for Clint Dempsey to start versus Costa Rica and if things go well, expect Deuce to be held in reserve in Honduras.
U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; WCQ Caps/Goals)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC; 14/0), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids; 36/0), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake; 0/0)
DEFENDERS (9): DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo; 34/6), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City; 11/1), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG; 22/2), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX; 15/0), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas; 0/0), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 0/0), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 5/0), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX; 3/0), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City; 18/3)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas; 4/0), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 3/1), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union; 9/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN; 35/7), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 16/1), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers; 7/0), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 9/5), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 0/0)
FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN; 38/16), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC; 39/18), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 3/0), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER; 10/4)
NATION GP W L D GF GA GD POINTS
*1. Mexico 6 4 0 2 9 2 +7 14
*2. Costa Rica 6 3 1 2 9 4 +5 11
*3. USA 6 2 2 2 11 8 +3 8
-4. Panama 6 1 1 4 4 4 0 7
5. Honduras 6 1 3 2 6 14 -8 5
6. Trinidad & T 6 1 5 0 3 10 -7 3