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Bruce Arena preparing to be without USMNT veterans for March qualifiers

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Up to as many as three established stars could be missing when World Cup qualifying resumes.

Ghana v USA: Group G - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Bruce Arena is preparing to manage in his third World Cup qualifying campaign in March after taking over for Jurgen Klinsmann late in 2015. The second-term manager led the United States men’s national team to qualification for the 2002 and 2006 tournaments and will be looking to help the current team rebound from an 0-2 start in the CONCACAF Hexagonal. He’ll possibly be doing so without some of the team’s most established veterans.

Injuries and illness have put doubt on the availability of Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, and Geoff Cameron for the upcoming qualifiers against Honduras and Panama later this month. Long term injuries for Howard and Cameron have sidelined both for the better part of three months, while Dempsey was forced to put his whole career on hold due his diagnosis of an irregular heartbeat. Dempsey and Cameron have returned to the field with their clubs since and Howard is working his way back. However, Arena tells the Associated Press that he has several back-up plans if some or all cannot play.

“Between now and when the players report, there’s going to be a lot of issues, so we have a Plan A, a B and a C, and in a lot of cases we’re probably going to go to Plan C,” Arena told the AP. “Two players, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard, may not be available. It may be the case with Geoff. They’ve all been good players for the U.S. team. We’d like to have them all. The reality of the situation is that that’s not likely.”

via SBI Soccer

The USMNT will already be lacking both Jermaine Jones and Timothy Chandler against Honduras due to yellow card accumulation. Having three other veterans possibly out would force Arena to look into the player pool to replace them.

One interesting note about this trio being mentioned is the fact that Arena seems to have softened his stance on calling up Dempsey for these qualifiers. Back in January, ESPN’s Taylor Twellman reported that Arena would not call up the team’s second all-time leading scorer to allow him to focus on club soccer. However, he may not have expected that Deuce would be ready to start on opening day. His accelerated availability time could have changed that. We’ll have to wait and see.

Assuming the worst case scenario and all three miss out, who would you want to see replace each on the roster? Let us know your picks in the comments.