Michael Orozco (16) has played only once in the Hexagonal, appearing in the U.S.'s 3-1 loss to Costa Rica last month. (Manuel Velasquez/Jam Media/LatinContent/Getty Images)
The U.S. national team has lost another key player to injury ahead of this year’s final World Cup qualifiers, scheduled for Friday and Oct. 15.
L.A. Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez, who has more caps in 2013 than all but two U.S. teammates, has pulled out of coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s team with a muscle strain in his left hip. Gonzalez left Sunday’s MLS game against Chivas USA at halftime and now won’t take part in the upcoming qualifiers.
Klinsmann has filled the opening with Puebla FC defender Michael Orozco, whose only appearance in the Hexagonal was in last month’s 3-1 thumping by Costa Rica. The move leaves Sporting Kansas City’s Matt Besler and Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron as the likely starters in central defense when the U.S. hosts Jamaica on Friday.
Cameron plays right back in England and manned the middle in Klinsmann’s back four only twice in 2013 – the 2-1 loss in Honduras in February and August’s 4-3 friendly win over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Orozco hasn’t played centrally with Klinsmann’s first-choice team this year.
With that in mind, the more obvious replacement for Gonzalez would have been Clarence Goodson, an experienced central defender who played well in last month’s qualification-clinching win over Mexico. Goodson helped the U.S. shut out Costa Rica in the snow and was a mainstay during the CONCACAF Gold Cup run.
He missed the San Jose Earthquakes’ game over the weekend with a knee contusion, but he’s now healthy and ready to play.
Why didn’t Klinsmann call him up? It may be because the coach is respecting the MLS schedule, even though he promised publicly that he wouldn’t. The sixth-place Quakes (12-11-8) are fighting for their playoff lives and are four points out of the postseason with three games to go. They host the fifth-place Colorado Rapids in a massively important match Wednesday night.
SI.com understands that Klinsmann and San Jose coach Mark Watson discussed the schedule on a couple of occasions. It’s quite possible, considering the fact that neither Orozco or Goodson likely would start against Jamaica, that Klinsmann opted to give San Jose a break and let it keep its defender.
Here's the updated roster:
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake).
Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City) Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Michael Orozco (Puebla).
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City).
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Landon Donovan (L.A. Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders).