Who's in, who's out? Key injuries change USMNT's outlook in World Cup qualifiers
Ever since announcing his U.S. men's national team roster last Wednesday, Bruce Arena has been confronted with circumstances that have forced him to change his plans on the fly while embracing the reality that two of his top options won't be available for must-have World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama.
Injuries to Fabian Johnson and Bobby Wood have changed the equation considerably for Arena, while players who thought they were snubbed have a new lease on international life over the next eight days. It could be worse for Arena, with Jordan Morris (ankle) and John Brooks (knee) suffering injury scares as well, but it appears that they will be carrying on, though they may not be at 100% this week.
So who is in and who is out of the U.S. squad? Here's the latest as training camp gets underway in San Jose in the build-up to Friday night's clash vs. Honduras.
Bobby Wood, F
Wood injured his back over the weekend playing for Hamburg, and it couldn't come at a worse time. Enjoying a good run of form for his club, with three goals in his last seven games, Wood was a safe bet to start and offers a complement to Jozy Altidore should Arena opt for a two-forward formation. If Morris isn't good to go the distance after tweaking his ankle (and scoring the decisive goal) in the Seattle Sounders' win over the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, it could force Arena to either go with a one-forward look and rely solely on Altidore or push him into starting Clint Dempsey–something he may be wary of given the star's gradual return from an irregular heartbeat scare.
Fabian Johnson, D/MF
The versatile fullback-midfielder exited Borussia Monchengladbach's Europa League match vs. Schalke on Thursday early with a thigh injury, and it's unclear how much time he'll have to miss. What is clear is how big a blow his absence is for the U.S. His ability to play multiple positions affords Arena tactical and personnel flexibility, but now the manager will be more limited in that regard.
Brad Guzan, GK
Likely to back up Tim Howard anyway, Guzan withdrew from the roster with his wife due with the couple's second child.
Matt Besler, D
Center back is not a weakness area for Arena, but if Brooks, who scored for Hertha Berlin over the weekend, can't go, then Besler can step in as a left-sided option in the middle. The World Cup veteran won't be a stranger to a back-against-the-wall situation if called into action.
Graham Zusi, D/MF
A right back in the making, Zusi gives Arena another option in the back and in the midfield. Given there's no obvious option to start at right back, it's a little curious why he wasn't included to begin with–especially with DeAndre Yedlin and Eric Lichaj ruled out with their respective injuries–but he's another experienced international player in the fold.
Sacha Kljestan, MF
The New York Red Bulls captain was surprisingly left out after appearing to be such a focal point for Arena during January camp, but he gets a new chance with the attack missing two of its brightest sparks. Being a late addition doesn't bode well for his chances to start–even with Jermaine Jones suspended for Friday's match–but as Kljestan showed in the fall, he can come off the bench and provide a key moment.
David Bingham, GK
The San Jose Earthquakes starter had a night to forget against Sporting Kansas City after getting the nod to replace Guzan. A convenient replacement given his proximity to the site of Friday's game, Avaya Stadium, Bingham figures to back up both Howard and Nick Rimando and be third in the pecking order.
Chris Wondolowski, F
A late addition on Monday night, Wondolowski also benefits from having the U.S. playing in his backyard Friday night. Sure to make a certain section of grudge-holding U.S. fans groan, Wondo, who has a goal and two assists in three MLS games this season, is likely cover in case Morris can't go.
Here's where the roster stands after the shuffling:
GOALKEEPERS: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
MIDFIELDERS: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy - Suspended Friday vs. Honduras), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)
FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)