In Bruce Arena’s first gathering of the U.S. men’s national soccer team this winter, every candidate from Europe and most from Mexico were not available because of club commitments. When he summoned a couple dozen for two 2018 World Cup qualifiers in March, injuries sidelined several potential starters and prompted further changes during camp.
But in assembling his roster for the next two qualifiers, including a visit to archrival Mexico in two weeks, Arena has almost everyone at his disposal. On Sunday, he unveiled a 27-man squad for matches against Trinidad and Tobago on June 8, in the Denver suburb of Commerce City, and Mexico, on June 11 at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.
Knock on wood, Arena hopes he doesn’t need to make any adjustments. (Yes, pun intended because forward Bobby Wood is among the returning characters.)
Defender DeAndre Yedlin and defender-midfielder Fabian Johnson are also back in the mix. Brad Guzan, the second-choice goalkeeper behind Tim Howard, is available after missing the previous camp because his wife was giving birth to their second child.
Forward Jordan Morris and defender John Brooks are in the fold after leaving the March session early. And Geoff Cameron is on the list after sitting out the second of the two March qualifiers.
All told, the only players unavailable because of injury are midfielders Jermaine Jones and Sebastian Lletget and defender Michael Orozco, none of whom are sure starters.
Aside from the healthy invitees, Arena extended invitations to three others who weren’t called for the previous camp: goalkeeper Ethan Horvath and defenders Matt Hedges and Timmy Chandler.
Hedges (FC Dallas) was invited to the winter camp but withdrew because of an injury. This call-up will “get him a foot in the door,” Arena said, “and hopefully allow him to move forward with a bigger role in the U.S. team.”
Notable omissions: midfielders Sacha Kljestan and Danny Williams, forward Chris Wondolowski, and defenders Walker Zimmerman and Eric Lichaj. They are among the candidates for the CONCACAF Gold Cup roster in July, a time when many U.S. regulars from Europe will take vacation before reporting to their respective club’s training camp.
Arena selected a larger-than-usual group (27 instead of 23 or 25) because of a tight timetable (two games in four days instead of five), the possible effects of playing at altitude and the yellow card situation. Cameron, Brooks, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and Matt Besler are carrying cards and, with their next booking, will have to sit out one match.
Twenty-three players will suit up for each qualifier.
“I can guarantee we will not be playing the same team from Game 1 to Game 2,” Arena said. “There will be a number of changes for the game in Mexico, so we’ve built a strong roster to allow us to do that.”
The roster breakdown: 14 players from MLS, nine from European leagues, three from the Mexican circuit and one (Guzan) who is in the process of moving to MLS (Atlanta) from England (Middlesbrough).
“The issue with the players from Europe is they’re completing a long season,” Arena said. “They’re at the end and they’re probably a little bit beat up, but I know they have another two weeks left in them. … The MLS players are at a point where they’re getting pretty fit and sharp, so I think it’s a good time.”
The Americans began gathering in the Denver area over the weekend. Everyone is expected to begin training Monday except Altidore, who will arrive late for personal reasons. The team will tune up for the qualifiers with a friendly against Venezuela on Saturday in Sandy, Utah.
Approaching the midway point of CONCACAF’s final-round calendar, the Americans (four points from four matches) stand fourth behind Mexico (10 points), Costa Rica (seven) and Panama (five). Honduras (four points but a weaker goal differential than the United States) and Trinidad and Tobago (three) are at the bottom.
Three nations will earn automatic berths in next summer’s World Cup in Russia, with a fourth entering a two-leg playoff against an Asian opponent in the fall.
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake).
Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City).
Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Fabian Johnson (Moenchengladbach), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund).
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Bobby Wood (Hamburg).