U.S. Men's National Team
Injuries to Wood, Johnson, Force Arena to Add Players
March 19, 2017
IF THE UNITED STATES national team is to qualify for Russia, it will likely need at least four points from Friday's home game against Honduras and the away game against Panama four days later. Further complicating matters, head coach Bruce Arena is dealing with a wave of injuries to top players.
Already confronted with with suspensions to Jermaine Jones and Timothy Chandler, earlier this month DeAndre Yedlin and potential backup fullback Eric Lichaj suffered injuries that prevented them from being included. Last week, Fabian Johnson suffered a hamstring injury that forced him off the roster. And now top forward Bobby Wood is also out of the mix as he is suffering from a back injury.
Arena has added Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, and Sacha Kljestan to his roster in recent days.
Without Wood leading the charge, Jozy Altidore and Jordan Morris will have to step up and carry the load in terms of goal production. The good news for Arena and the team is that Morris and Altidore played well over the weekend for their respective teams. Morris notched a goal and an assist for Seattle in a win over the New York Red Bulls. Altidore also scored the second goal for Toronto in a 2-0 win over Vancouver on Saturday.
Back in January Arena said he did not intend to name Clint Dempsey to the squad, but the Seattle Sounder made a speedy recover from an irregular heartbeat, prompting Arena to call him in. Though originally viewed as a substitute, Arena may now be tempted to consider Dempsey in a starting position. (Dempsey played 91 minutes on Sunday and scored on a penalty kick.)
The loss of Johnson is especially difficult for Arena because the Borussia Monchengladbach stalwart has been used at both fullback and in the midfield in recent years for the national team. Arena said he wanted Johnson to play in the midfield although with the injuries to fullbacks, Johnson was an option possible to play on the back line. When healthy, Johnson solves multiple problems; his absence creates several.
Assuming Christian Pulisic starts in one of the outside midfield positions, the other side could be filled with Darlington Nagbe, Alejandro Bedoya, or Sebastian Lletget.
But Arena will likely need to use him imagination to field two fullbacks. Right back will likely either be filled by Geoff Cameron (a move that has the added drawback of breaking up the top central defense pairing he has with John Brooks), Michael Orozco, or Graham Zusi. Meanwhile left back will fall to either Tim Ream, Jorge Villafana, DaMarcus Beasley, or perhaps even Matt Besler.
What a test. Here is the updated roster.
David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin/GER) Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana/MEX), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER)