US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann shook up the roster for an upcoming friendly against Mexico with a somewhat surprising 23-man group released Sunday, including the exclusion of superstar Clint Dempsey and the introduction of two young MLS defenders who could make their USMNT debut at Estadio Azteca.
Ten MLS players were selected for Klinsmann’s group, which will take on a surging Mexican squad in Mexico City on Wednesday (8 pm ET, ESPN2 and Univision) with the difficult task of somehow topping El Tri on their home turf.
Players began reporting to Mexico City on Sunday, and will train for two days prior to the midweek fixture.
LA Galaxy star Landon Donovan leads the MLS pack, but he’s joined by Klinsmann regulars Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City) and FC Dallas star Brek Shea, who was left off the roster during World Cup qualifying matches earlier this summer while struggling through a frustrating stretch after he won Klinsmann’s favor last year.
Both Donovan and Shea will miss midweek games for their respective MLS teams while in Mexico.
Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando also returns along with Chicago Fire netminder Sean Johnson, but perhaps the two biggest surprises come in the back: San Jose Earthquakes rising star Steven Beitashour and Sporting Kansas City stalwart Matt Besler are both in search of their first cap during breakout seasons for two of the top teams in the league.
Former MLSer Geoff Cameron is also back after strong showings with the US team this year and a recent move from the Houston Dynamo to Stoke City.
San Jose striker Alan Gordon was also included, a later addition on Sunday.
"We're excited about the opportunity to bring this group together and challenge Mexico for a win," Klinsmann said in a statement. "For every game, we always look at who is in the best form, who is fit and who is ready to go. We have a lot of veteran players and also some new, hungry guys who deserve a chance.
“Every player in the pool looks forward to an amazing opportunity like this, the chance to take on Mexico in such an historic stadium like Estadio Azteca. With the World Cup qualifiers coming up next month, we can start preparing these players mentally and physically for Jamaica."
Dempsey, who was recently asked by Fulham to train independently while the club drama surrounding his potential move to Liverpool continues, is the most notable player absent from the group. Midfielder Michael Bradley, whose recent move to Serie A side AS Roma brought him back to the United States for a brief tour with his new club, is also not in the group.
Veteran Europe-based defenders Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo and Oguchi Onyewu were left off the roster, as was Alkmaar AZ striker Jozy Altidore, who scored two goals against Ajax on Sunday.
Not surprisingly, six players on the US roster currently ply their trade in the Liga MX: defenders Edgar Castillo and Michael Orozco Fiscal, midfielders Joe Corona, Jose Torres and DaMarcus Beasley and forward Herculez Gomez.
The US have not played at Estadio Azteca since the 2-1 loss in World Cup qualifying on Aug. 12, 2009, a game in which the US held its first-ever lead at the famed stadium. The last time the USA and Mexico met for an international friendly in Mexico came Oct. 17, 1984.
In their last meeting, the teams played to a 1-1 draw on Aug. 10, 2011, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, which marked Klinsmann's debut as head coach.
US TRAVEL ROSTER BY POSITION
GOALKEEPERS (3): Tim Howard (Everton), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (6): Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steven Beithasour (San Jose Earthquakes), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim)
MIDFIELDERS (9): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Jose Torres (Pachuca), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (5): Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Herculez Gomez (Santos), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Alan Gordon (San Jose Earthquakes)