LA Galaxy's Landon Donovan among four starters departing USMNT camp ahead of Panama finale
US national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann has sent four starters home ahead of the final CONCACAF World Cup qualifier against Panama on Tuesday (9:30 pm ET, beIN Sport).
Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Tim Howard (Everton), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04) and Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), who all started Friday's 2-0 win over Jamaica, have departed camp with a U.S. Soccer Federation statement clarifying that Donovan and Jones have injury concerns.
"Landon is still struggling with the ankle injury from a couple weeks ago, so he will go back to Los Angeles and try to get back to 100 percent," Klinsmann said in a U.S. Soccer press release. "Jermaine's case is more of a concern. His knee was bothering him all night but he battled through. It's clear that the issue with his knee is something that should be taken care of right away so he can be 100 percent for Schalke and the national team as soon as possible."
Only one player has been called in as a replacement with Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson reporting for international duty after his MLS team's Saturday night match vs. FC Dallas.
U.S. Soccer says Besler's exit was part of a "planned rotation of players," with Klinsmann indicating that he wanted to "get Clarence Goodson a game in one of the last two qualifiers." It was a similar case with Howard and Klinsmann's desire to give backup goalkeeper Brad Guzan a start.
"Brad Guzan has earned the opportunity to start against Panama," continued Klinsmann in the U.S. Soccer statement. "He has been outstanding for Aston Villa all year, and he has been huge in the games he has played for us in World Cup qualifying. As I said before, we have one of the best situations in the world when it comes to our goalkeepers."
While the USMNT has already secured the top spot in the CONCACAF Hexagonal courtesy of a 2-0 win vs. Jamaica on Friday, Tuesday's matchup is critical for Panama and Mexico, with the two teams still battling it out for the fourth and final playoff spot, which would earn one of them a home-and-home series against New Zealand for a ticket to the 2014 World Cup.
Mexico (11 pts.) currently occupy the fourth spot and would secure the matchup against New Zealand with a tie in Costa Rica. Panama (8 pts.) need to beat the USA and hope for a Mexico loss to have any hope of catching them in the standings.
USMNT Roster vs. Panama (Oct. 15, 2013)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (6): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Michael Orozco (Puebla)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)