Bobby Wood is off the United States roster for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Honduras (March 24, 10:30 p.m. ET on FS1) and Panama. The striker has a back injury that will keep him from playing, which is a huge blow to the Americans, who are desperate for wins as they try to make the 2018 World Cup.
Wood has been in excellent form for Hamburg and was a likely starter for the U.S. He’s already one of their best players and when you toss in the goals he’s been bagging in the Bundesliga, you have someone that the Americans could depend on up front. Now that won’t be the case.
Bruce Arena has added Sacha Kljestan to the roster in Wood’s place, perhaps indicating that he will not play with two strikers now. The thinking was that Wood and Jozy Altidore have been so good that they have to start together, making for a two-striker set-up. But with Wood out, Arena could opt for just Altidore up front and a No. 10 behind him, be it Christian Pulisic, Darlington Nagbe or Kljestan.
Whatever Arena does decide, the U.S. need to win. They lost their first two matches of the final round of World Cup qualifying, leaving them dead last in the six-team group. They need to get into the top three to automatically qualify for the World Cup, which they can certainly do, but they have to start racking up wins and that means beating Honduras and Panama.
That they have to do it without Wood will make things tough, just like having to do it without two more other probable starters — Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin — because of injuries is a chore, but the Americans will still have more talent than their opponents. And, at this point, the U.S. don’t have room for excuses anyway.
Matt Besler was also added to the roster, not in place of anyone, but to give the team another defensive option.