Christian Pulisic and Fabian Johnson
United States manager Bruce Arena has named a 26-man roster for a pair of critical World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Honduras.
The U.S. will face the Ticos at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. on Sept. 1, and then travel to San Pedro Sula to take on Los Catrachos four days later.
The U.S. currently finds itself on eight points in the final round of World Cup qualifying, occupying the third and final automatic qualification spot. But they are just one point ahead of fourth-placed Panama, leaving them with little room for error.
“I think we’re bringing in a good roster, one that has depth in every position and in which all 26 players have been with the national team in 2017,” Arena said. “I think we have the right understanding as a group as to what needs to be done, and hopefully we can be successful in these next two games.”
The three extra bodies are reflective of the fact that the U.S. has six players that are one yellow card away from suspension, as well as the uncertainty facing the fitness of several players.
Midfielder Fabian Johnson just returned to the field last weekend after missing the start of the Bundesliga season due to a back injury. He came on for the final 10 minutes of Borussia Monchengladbach’s 2-2 draw with Augsburg.
The news is even better for Pachuca defender Omar Gonzalez, who made his first start since Aug. 9 in his side’s 2-1 defeat to Club Tijuana.
But Arena will have to assess Gonzalez’s overall sharpness as it relates to the roster’s other center-backs, a group that includes Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron, Sporting Kansas City’s Matt Besler, FC Dallas’ Matt Hedges, and Fulham’s Tim Ream.
“We have to be smart,” said Arena as it relates to those players who have been dealing with injuries.
As expected, Wolfsburg defender John Brooks, Newcastle United outside back DeAndre Yedlin, and Club Tijuana defender Michael Orozco were all left off the roster due to injury. Brooks is recovering from a torn thigh tendon that will keep out for several months. Yedlin misses out due to a hamstring injury that has just recently seen him return to training.
Otherwise, there were few surprises, as Arena brings in his big names for the two matches, including mainstays, Christian Pulisic, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Cameron and Tim Howard.
Altidore, Paul Arriola, Alejandro Bedoya, Matt Besler, Bradley and Cameron are the players sitting on yellow cards.
All told, there are 12 players on the roster with 10 or more appearances in World Cup qualifying. Eighteen players on the current roster earned a winner’s medal at the 2017 Gold Cup.
Here’s the full roster:
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafana (Santos Laguna), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC)
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Hamburg)
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.