As the US Men’s National Team prepares for upcoming qualifiers later this month Bruce Arena discussed how the roster will shape up. Sports Illustrated reported that the USMNT manager said that he would name a 23-25 player roster on March 15th and a final roster prior to the team’s brief camp being held in San Jose on March 20th.
Arena discussed Fabian Johnson and other lineup considerations going forward. The coach mentioned that he is looking at Johnson as a left midfielder where he most often starts with Borussia Monchengladbach. Under Jurgen Klinsmann, Johnson played as both a right back and left back, occasionally making appearances in midfield. Arena seems set on keeping him in midfield but there are more roster questions that the USMNT manager will have to answer and injuries that may force him to re-think his choice.
For one thing, DeAndre Yedlin may miss the qualifier as he has a slight tear in his thigh and will be out two weeks. Potential replacements at right back include Graham Zusi, Timmy Chandler, and Eric Lichaj.
While Yedlin is the obvious first choice at his position, left back is not nearly as clear cut. Arena said that “All kinds of possibilities exist—from Fabian Johnson, who I indicated our preference is to have him in the midfield. Jorge Villafaña and Greg Garza had good showings in January and February with us in camp. Also DaMarcus Beasley showed well in his first game with Houston over the past weekend, so those are all four candidates.” Sports Illustrated also noted that Tim Ream, Matt Besler, and the versatile Eric Lichaj could win the job for the upcoming matches.
Sports Illustrated also reported on players coming back from injury that Arena is considering for the squad. While Tim Howard hasn’t played since a groin injury against Mexico in November, if he is healthy he could make the squad. Arena also mentioned that Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando are the other leading choices to fill out the three keeper slots on the team.
Geoff Cameron returned this past Saturday for Stoke City after recovering from an injury he sustained last year. The Premier League defender had been a mainstay in the US lineup and played in six games during the Copa America last summer.
SI also noted that Arena is monitoring how Clint Dempsey is returning from an irregular heartbeat that was diagnosed last year. Arena said “we want to be smart about Clint and make sure that he’s ready to play international soccer. The next two weekends are going to be very important. We will follow him closely.” Dempsey played the full 90 against Houston in MLS this past weekend and scored the team’s lone goal.