Bruce Arena drops US roster hints for upcoming World Cup qualifiers

Bruce Arena - US national team - USMNT

Bruce Arena is hoping to announce the roster for the US men’s national team’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and at Panama by March 15, he said in a Facebook Live Q&A on Wednesday.

What that squad looks like, of course, is still up in the air. Arena talked through a good number of his options on Wednesday, namedropping a large number of players who are in the running for his final “23-25” man World Cup qualifying roster.

One notable position Arena addressed was goalkeeper. Incoming Atlanta United FC goalkeeper Brad Guzan, currently the No. 2 at English Premier League club Middlesbrough, and Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando both appear to be likely call-ups, while the Colorado RapidsTim Howard will “get strong consideration” if he’s able to return to the field on Saturday at the Red Bulls(4 pm ET; UniMas in the US | MLS LIVE in Canada).

Howard suffered an adductor injury in the US’s Hexagonal-opening loss to Mexico in November and missed the Rapids’ win against New England last Saturday as he finalized his rehab. Colorado head coach Pablo Mastroeni said earlier this week that he’ll be in contention to start on Saturday.

“As we came out of our domestic camp in January, Nick Rimando, David Bingham and Luis Robles were a big part of that,” Arena said. “Clearly, I think Nick had a little bit of an edge and he’s a possibility for our roster in March.”

“Tim Howard, as you know, is coming off an injury, didn’t play last weekend, we’re waiting to see if he plays for Colorado this weekend. If he continues to remain healthy and makes progress he’s obviously going to get strong consideration for the call-ups in March. In England, Brad Guzan is likely to play today for Middlesbrough [on Wednesday], we’ve followed his progress and if he continues to stay healthy I would think that he’s going to be included in our roster as well.”

While Howard could make his return to the USMNT in a couple of weeks, it sounds like Clint Dempsey may have to wait for a call-up. The Seattle Sounders attacker missed the second half of 2016 due to an irregular heartbeat and played his first match since last August on Saturday, scoring in the Sounders’ 2-1 loss at Houston.

“I think with Clint we need to be cautious in our approach,” Arena said. “It was great to see him play in the opening game in Houston for Seattle and I want to see him again this weekend, really see where he’s at physically, if he’s getting a little bit sharper, if he’s increasing his workload on the field.

“We know he’s obviously a very good player and he’s got a great history with the national team, but we want to be smart about Clint and make sure that he’s ready to play international soccer. The next two weekends are going to be very important, so we’ll follow him closely. I’m happy to see he’s back on the field and I’m confident that he’ll be part of the national team at some point in 2017.”

Arena also namechecked Geoff Cameron and DeAndre Yedlin, saying he hoped to call-up both players if they’re healthy enough to suit up for the USMNT. Cameron is just returning from a knee injury with Stoke City, while Yedlin suffered a thigh injury with Newcastle over the weekend.

Two other players based in England, Fulham’s Tim Ream and Nottingham Forest’s Eric Lichaj, were both mentioned multiple times by Arena as potential call-ups on Wednesday.

Arena named Chicago’s Dax McCarty, Kansas City’s Matt Besler, Houston’s DaMarcus Beasley and Atlanta’s Greg Garza as some of the MLS players he’s considering calling up for the World Cup qualifiers. He also mentioned expected call-ups Michael Bradley, Darlington Nagbe, Omar Gonzalez, Christian Pulisic, Bobby Wood, John Brooks and Fabian Johnson on Wednesday, saying he’d like to consistently play Johnson at left midfield in 2017.