SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Jurgen Klinsmann knew the risks. With eight players in danger of suspension, he understood the effect Mexican referee Marco Antonio Rodriguez could have on his team’s World Cup qualifying destiny.
But sitting Matt Besler wasn’t really an option. Geoff Cameron’s inclusion was necessitated by a last-gasp injury to Michael Bradley, who was carrying a yellow card himself. Saving Jozy Altidore with the US down a goal and momentum on their side didn’t make sense, either.
Sometimes gambles don’t pay off, and that’s the situation the United States find themselves in after three yellow cards against Costa Rica rendered Besler, Cameron and Altidore unavailable for Tuesday’s match against Mexico in Columbus (8 pm ET, ESPN).
“We knew about the risk. We knew about the situation,” Klinsmann told reporters after the 3-1 loss at Estadio Nacional. “It’s always upsetting when it happens then, especially when I look at Jozy Altidore’s yellow card towards the end. That was absolutely not necessary, but it is what it is. We’ll adjust to it. If we need to call players in, we will do that still tonight.”
With Bradley also nursing a left ankle sprain suffered on the last kick of pregame warm-ups and leaving the stadium on crutches, it seems likely that Klinsmann will summon a central midfielder as well as a center back to buoy the squad ahead of a much-anticipated match between CONCACAF’s biggest rivals.
Clarence Goodson, a World Cup qualifying fixture in previous camps, makes the most sense, and Sasha Kljestan, who is currently in New York City, would appear to be a logical choice in the center of the park. At forward, he could opt for Chris Wondolowski or perhaps Terrance Boyd. That’s assuming the German decides change is necessary.
Among those already with the team, Kyle Beckerman could also step in to partner Jermaine Jones as a holding midfielder, and John Brooks or Michael Orozco are certainly candidates to line up alongside Omar Gonzalez in central defense. Up top, Eddie Johnson or Aron Johannsson could slide in centrally, or Klinsmann could choose to stick with Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan.
No matter how the roster evolves (or doesn’t), it’s clear there will be some new faces in the US starting lineup come Tuesday.
“There are guys who have wanted to play and maybe deserve to play,” Donovan said, “and now they’re going to have a chance.”
With World Cup qualification a win and a Honduras result away, the US will face a Mexico team under new leadership – Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre was dismissed after a 2-1 home defeat to the Catratchos on Friday night – that’s desperate for points of any kind.
And with Bradley, Dempsey, Tim Howard, Fabian Johnson and Jermaine Jones all one caution away from their own yellow-card suspensions, it may not be the first time before the Hexagonal is over that the Americans are forced to cope with a significant blow to their squad.
“I think the depth’s good, but my words mean nothing,” Howard told reporters. “We’ll figure it out on Tuesday. …Now’s not a time to second guess each other.”