Consider the opponents -- it's Antigua and Barbuda and Guatemala!
Last cycle, Guatemala did not qualify for the final round of qualifying, finishing with just five points in the semifinal round to Trinidad and Tobago's 11 and the U.S.' 11. Antigua and Barbuda didn't even qualify for the third round, getting beaten by Cuba 8-3 over two legs in the second round. These are the teams that the U.S. is playing.
Jurgen Klinsmann called Donovan and Shea into camp knowing that they were battling injuries and called 24 players into camp as a result. He made sure that his replacements for the two would already be in camp just in case, and they are. When it was determined that neither Donovan nor Shea could play, Klinsmann did not need to call up any replacements because he already had them in camp.
Johnson is dealing with the flu and reportedly will miss Friday's contest against the Benna Boys. That wasn't something Klinsmann planned for, but does it matter?
Two years ago, the U.S. started Carlos Bocanegra and Jonathan Bornstein at left back in a World Cup. This time around they still have Bocanegra, plus Edgar Castillo (who is battling a foot injury so he may be out) and Michael Parkhurst has played more than enough left back to be capable out there. And this against Antigua and Barbuda, not in a World Cup.
Four months ago, the U.S. played Antigua and Barbuda in a World Cup qualifier and Johnson missed that match, too. Klinsmann opted to start Jose Francisco Torres in his place, who is in no way a left back, and it went perfectly well.
Klinsmann summed it up at the time, "Anybody can play left back."
Whether that is true or not is immaterial. Against Antigua and Barbuda, anybody can play left back or at least that should be the case. Against Antigua and Barbuda, and against Guatemala at home, the U.S. should not have a problem playing without Donovan and Shea.
Injuries are inevitable and everyone deals with them all the time. Last month, the U.S. played without Michael Bradley and Jamaica played without Demar Phillips, while Jason Morrison played visibly hurt. Guatemala is preparing for these qualifiers with a 21-year-old and a second division player as a possible center back pairing because four of their top five players at the position are out.
The U.S. wishes they were healthier and nobody could call them fortunate, but they are not especially unfortunate or decimated. They are missing two starters and a bench player.
So the U.S. is going to play without a few players. Big deal? Klinsmann was prepared for this and has a plan.
If the U.S. does not win both matches then the problem is not injuries or anything of the sort. The problems go much deeper than that. It is Antigua and Barbuda and Guatemala for god's sake.