Christian Pulisic is expected to lead the American attack against two Central American sides in World Cup qualifying. (Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports)
CHICAGO – There were no surprises to the 26-man roster that head coach Bruce Arena selected for the U.S. national team’s training camp prior to a pair of World Cup qualifying matches against Costa Rica and Honduras.
The Americans host the Ticos at Red Bull Arena Friday before heading to Honduras for a Sept. 5 confrontation.
Arena brought in his A team.
That included goalkeeper Tim Howard, Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando, veteran defenders DaMarcus Beasley, Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez, midfielders Christian Pulisic and Michael Bradley, the team captain, and strikers Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris.
“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.”
No Red Bulls or New York City FC players were selected, although five former Red Bulls/MetroStars players were picked. They included Howard, defender Tim Ream, midfielders Dax McCarty and Bradley and Altidore.
The USA is 2-0-2 in qualifying since Arena took over as head coach and has climbed into third place in the six-team CONCACAF hexagonal.
A victory at home against Costa Rica would be a huge step closer to qualifying for Russia. The top three teams automatically qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The fourth place side would participate in an aggregate goals playoff.
“The decisions are simply based on the fact that we need our best roster possible in order to achieve what we want to achieve here, and that’s to earn points in both games,” Arena said at www.USSoccer.com. “I think we’re strong in the goal, up top very strong, and I like our midfield combinations. Our back line has had some injuries over the past month that will hurt us a little bit, but I think if everyone comes into camp healthy, we have good options in our back line and good depth.
“I think overall we have a pretty solid roster here. We’ve called 26 players because we come into camp with six guys that have yellow cards, and we also have some players that are dealing with injury so we have to be smart.”
The U.S. roster (club; WCQ caps/goals)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC; 14/0), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids; 36/0), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake; 0/0)
DEFENDERS (9): DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo; 34/6), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City; 11/1), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG; 22/2), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX; 15/0), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas; 0/0), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 0/0), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 5/0), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX; 3/0), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City; 18/3)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas; 4/0), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 3/1), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union; 9/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN; 35/7), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 16/1), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers; 7/0), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 9/5), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 0/0)
FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN; 38/16), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC; 39/18), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 3/0), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER; 10/4)