With World Cup qualification in the balance in a pair of matches versus Panama and Trinidad and Tobago U.S. MNT coach Bruce Arena has called in a 26 player roster that recalls Jurgen Klinsmann at his most inscrutable.
Friday’s test against Panama in Orlando is a must win game and the U.S. will likely need at least a point from its trip to Trinidad and Tobago four days later. Where exactly Bruce Arena sees Juan Agudelo and Gyasi Zardes fitting into that scenario is difficult to fathom.
Agudelo has not scored any of his eight goals for New England since August, while Zardes has regressed so much as a forward that L.A. boss Sigi Schmidt is attempting to convert Zardes to fullback.
A hamstring may eliminate Zardes from contention.
Arena has selected both as midfielders. Many expected to see Orlando’s Dom Dwyer take over for injured Jordan Morris, instead, Arena chose to carry just four forwards, although Agudelo and Zardes are potential strikers.
Arena is counting on Geoff Cameron after the center back put in a full shift for Stoke over the weekend and has brought back Tim Ream after the Fulham central defender was objectively awful alongside Cameron- not any better- in the 2-0 home loss to Costa Rica last month.
The U.S. managed a last-gasp draw at Honduras after the Costa Rica game in what seemed to many a sad international farewell to U.S. legend DaMarcus Beasley, who simply was not at the races against Honduras’ speedy wingers.
Graham Zusi was no better and yet both are back while Tim Chandler remains on Arena’s Missing Persons List, despite impressing week in a week out for Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga. Also left out is the versatile Fabian Johnson, who has not been at his best, though it is worth asking why Johnson has been penalized for poor form while Beasley and Zusi among others have not.
Arena has kept faith with Omar Gonzalez despite his very poor outing in the Honduras match while Matt Miazga, who has been impressing in the Eredivisie for Vitesse Arnhem has been overlooked.
Aside from the dubious midfield duo of Agudelo and Zardes, Arena has left himself open to questions marks in the center of the park with a couple of selections and omissions.
The U.S. MNT welcome back Benny Feilhaber, his creative spark is badly needed- but what about Lee Nguyen, who has racked up an impressive 11 goals and 15 assists this season and is one of the hottest players in MLS at the moment?
Christian Roldan’s absence is something of a surprise and what of Jermaine Jones? Healthy again after some time off the Galaxy hardman is a big game player and matches do not get much bigger than this upcoming two-game set.
October 6, 2017 7 PM ET
MNT vs Panama,
Orlando City Stadium; Orlando, Fla.
ESPN2, Univision, UDN
October 10, 2017 8 PM ET
MNT vs Trinidad & Tobago
Ato Boldon Stadium; Trinidad & Tobago
beIN SPORTS, Universo (WCQ TV rights)
ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; WCQ Caps/Goals):
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC; 15/0), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids; 37/0), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake; 0/0)
DEFENDERS (9): DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo; 35/6), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City; 12/1), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG; 24/2), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX; 16/0), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana/MEX; 6/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 6/0), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX; 4/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG; (8/0), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City; 20/3)
MIDFIELDERS (10): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas; 5/0), Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution; 0/0), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 5/1), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union; 9/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN; 38/7), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City; 6/0), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers; 9/0), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 11/5), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy; 4/1)
FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN; 39/16), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC; 41/18), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER; 12/4)