U.S. Opens Training Ahead of World Cup Qualifier

Photograph by Matt Kremkau

US logoThe United States men’s national team has set up camp at the New York Red Bulls’ training center in Whippany, N.J., as it prepares for two important World Cup qualifying matches — starting with a game against Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., on Friday evening.

On Sunday, Coach Bruce Arena selected 26 players in preparation for the games against the Ticos and at Honduras next Tuesday, Sept. 5.

Two victories would virtually assure the United States of nailing down one of the three automatic berths from the CONCACAF region that would send the American team to next year’s World Cup in Russia. The U.S. is 2-0-2 in qualifying since Bruce Arena took over as coach and has climbed into third place in the six-team final round group, called the Hex. The U.S. closes out play in qualifying with games against Panama, and at Trinidad and Tobago in early October.

By sheer coincidence, the final game of this qualifying cycle will be where the U.S. qualified for the 1990 World Cup with a victory in 1989, ending a 40-year drought for the U.S. in the final tournament.

Twelve players on the U.S. roster have made 10 or more World Cup qualifying appearances: Clint Dempsey (39), Jozy Altidore (38), Tim Howard (36), Michael Bradley (35), DaMarcus Beasley (34), Geoff Cameron (22), Graham Zusi (18), Fabian Johnson (16), Omar Gonzalez (15), Brad Guzan (14) and Matt Besler (11). Also, 18 players earned a medal by winning the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Six players called in by Arena will be seeking their first cap in qualifying: goalkeeper Nick Rimando; defenders Matt Hedges and Eric Lichaj; midfielders Dax McCarty and Cristian Roldan; and forward Chris Wondolowski.

Bruce Arena US Soccer Head Coach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arena made some interesting roster choices. He left off Gyasi Zardes, one of his players when he led the Los Angeles Galaxy, and included Wondolowski, a player who has scored consistently in Major League Soccer, but has largely been a disappointment with the national team. Defender Matt Miazga is also missing from the 26, while Matt Hedges, who had a difficult time in the Gold Cup, is back with the national team. Finally, the veteran Rimando is the squad’s third goalkeeper as Arena decided to go with experience rather than choosing from among NYCFC’s Sean Johnson, Jesse Gonzalez or Bill Hamid.

And even though Jurgen Klinsmann is not longer the coach of the U.S., Arena has included three potentially key players currently playing in the Bundesliga — Christian Pulisic (Dortmund), Bobby Wood (Hamburg) and Fabian Johnson (Mönchengladbach).

Of the 18 Major League Soccer players on the roster, none were selected from either the Red Bulls or New York City FC. The Seattle Sounders have three players — Dempsey, Jordan Morris and Christian Roldan — on the roster, while Toronto, Sporting Kansas City and FC Dallas each have two.

Costa Rica is in second place in the Hex with 11 points and will be seeking to overturn its 2-0 loss to the U.S. in the Gold Cup semifinals, which snapped the Ticos’ seven-game unbeaten run.

On Friday, coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPN, Univision and UDN. Fans can also see the game on Facebook and Twitter at @ussoccer and @ussoccer_esp.

The training roster (players in MLS, unless otherwise noted):

Goalkeepers Brad Guzan (Atlanta United), Tim Howard (Colorado), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders DaMarcus Beasley (Houston), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/England), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/Mexico), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/England), Tim Ream (Fulham/England), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/Mexico), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia), Michael Bradley (Toronto), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach/Germany), Dax McCarty (Chicago), Darlington Nagbe (Portland), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/Germany), Cristian Roldan (Seattle)

Forwards Jozy Altidore (Toronto), Clint Dempsey (Seattle), Jordan Morris (Seattle), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose, Bobby Wood (Hamburg/Germany)