After the relatively meaningless ‘January’ friendlies, the United States men’s national team is ready to get down to business with the start of the semifinal round of FIFA World Cup qualifying. The Stars and Stripes will debut their new 2016 jerseys in the matches.
Clint Dempsey returns to the roster along with 25 other players focused on proving to Jurgen Klinsmann they belong on the final roster and that they can help earn the side the full 6 points from the 2 matches against Guatemala.
“Our goal definitely for the two Guatemala fixtures is six points,” Klinsmann said in a US Soccer interview. “We badly want to get the job (qualifying for the hexagonal) done before the Copa America if possible. We know it’s going to be very difficult, especially in Guatemala City, but it’s also going to be difficult in Columbus, but there we have a great crowd behind us.”
The Deuce missed the November qualifiers and the team never appeared to be playing at full potential.
“Having Clint Dempsey back is very, very important for us as well,” Klinsmann continued. “He’s a tremendous goalscorer and when we play teams like Guatemala, you need to figure out ways to score just one or two goals that make the difference. Clint is a guy that can get that done.”
The bulk of the roster is from Major League Soccer with 13 players represented with players from Mexico (5), the Premier League (4), Bundesliga (2), Bundesliga 2 1), and France (1) filling it out.
U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; WCQ Caps/Goals)
GOALKEEPERS (4) : David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa; 9/0), Tim Howard (Everton FC; 30/0), William Yarbrough (Club Leon; 0/0)
DEFENDERS (9) : Ventura Alvarado (Club America; 0/0), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City; 8/0), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United; 0/0), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin; 0/0), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City; 15/1), Edgar Castillo (Monterrey; 4/0), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca; 8/0), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana; 4/1), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland; 0/0)
MIDFIELDERS (8) : Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake; 6/0), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes FC; 3/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC; 26/5), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC; 3/0), Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew SC; 0/0), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach; 11/1), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers FC; 2/0), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution; 0/0)
FORWARDS (5) : Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC; 28/12), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC; 34/13), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Bobby Wood (Union Berlin; 2/1), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy; 2/1)
As to some of the other players on the roster, Klinsmann said:
“…a couple of players are back in the picture that are healthy again, like Geoff Cameron and Alejandro Bedoya, which is very, very crucial for us.”
“Some players for months have been playing at a very high level, like John Brooks, for example, and Fabian Johnson and Bobby Wood scoring goals in the 2. Bundesliga in Germany.”
“Another example in a very positive way is Omar Gonzalez with Pachuca. He’s been playing a very strong first couple of months with the new club since he went down there coming from the LA Galaxy, which is exciting.”
“Another name to mention is Edgar Castillo being a very consistent high-level player at Monterrey, being on top of the Liga MX in Mexico. We were in touch over the last year and he deserves that call and deserves to get back into the group.”
“We are happy that Brad Guzan fought back into his number one spot at Aston Villa.”
While the roster is focused on the WCQ’ers, Klinsmann has an eye on the upcoming Copa America 2016 Centenario which was his reason for calling a larger than usual initial roster, including 4 goalkeepers.
“The reason why we brought in a little bit of a bigger roster is because of the fact that it is the last time before we decide on the roster for the Copa America. We want to have the opportunity to see a couple more players. For example, we brought in four goal keepers because we want to see where David Bingham is right now, where William Yarbrough – who is playing very consistent with Club Leon – is right now…This is the only chance we have from a National Team perspective to see a couple guys, so that’s why we chose to bring in 26 players.”
The U.S. opens the 2-game set-up against los Chapines at Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City on Friday, March 25 at 10 p.m. ET (beIN Sport and NBC Universo). They then return to the U.S. for the second match at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday, March 29 at 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2, UniMas and Univision Deportes Network).