Bruce Arena has his 24-man roster for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Honduras (March 24, 10:30 p.m. ET on FS1) and Panama (March 28). These are massive matches for the Americans, who lost their first two contests of the final round of World Cup qualifying under Jurgen Klinsmann and now need to pick up some points or risk not making the 2018 World Cup.
What's there to take away from the roster?
The vets are good to go
Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Geoff Cameron were all doubts to make this roster. Dempsey had a heart problem, while Howard and Cameron were dealing with injuries, and none of the three had played in months, but all three returned to action in the last few weeks and are all on the roster.
It's unclear what role the three players will play -- all are borderline starters -- in the upcoming matches, but it's big for Arena that he has them all available.
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The goalkeeper situation isn't ideal
Howard only returned from a four-month injury absence last month, while Brad Guzan rarely plays for Middlesbrough and Nick Rimando continues to hang around as the (presumed) third goalkeeper. There isn't a single option on this roster who the U.S. will feel overly confident in, at least not right now. The Americans do need to get younger in goal and find their next man -- Bill Hamid, Ethan Horvath and Zack Steffen are among the options -- but we're not going to see them right now.
The hope for several MLS players was that the managerial change from Klinsmann to Arena would mean extra chances for players from the league. In January, Arena opened the door to several players who had been overlooked by Klinsmann and now several of those who impressed are on the team for these World Cup qualifiers.
Dax McCarty is back, having parlayed his excellent MLS play into another look with the national team. Sebastian Lletget, who played for Arena with the Galaxy and shined in January, is also in the squad. Toss in Darlington Nagbe, Jordan Morris, Kellyn Acosta and Walker Zimmerman, and you have your fair share of MLSers who have worked their way into bigger national team roles pretty quickly under Arena.
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Fabian Johnson at right back?
Arena continues to say that he prefers Johnson as a winger and he's listed as a midfielder in the full roster, but it would make sense put him at right back considering this roster.
Because of DeAndre Yedlin's injury, there is no clear choice at right back and the roster doesn't have a single player whose natural position is right back. Michael Orozco or Cameron could play there, but that's far from ideal. Does Arena really want to turn to them, even if he likes Johnson at midfield ideally? Without another right back on the roster, right back could be Johnson's spot, at least until Yedlin returns.
There are two left backs on the roster: Jorge Villafana and DaMarcus Beasley, while Tim Ream is an out-of-position option. But Villafana isn't playing regularly for Santos Laguna and Beasley is a 34-year-old who tried to retire from the national team more than two years ago.
Left back has always been a problem for the U.S. Villafana may grow into the role (he played well in January camp), Greg Garza may get another look in the future and someone else could step up over the next few months. That Beasley is still around and there isn't anyone who looks ready to go is a sign of more issues at left back for the Americans.
Seriously, DaMarcus Beasley
The last time the Americans were really in any danger of not qualifying the World Cup was back when they were trying to get into the 2002 tournament. You know who played in 2002 World Cup qualifying? DaMarcus Beasley.
The 34-year-old made his U.S. debut more than 16 years ago, but he's still here, filling in and trying to get the Americans to another World Cup. Beasley is already the first U.S. player to play in four World Cups, and now he's trying to make it a fifth, even though he tried retiring from international soccer in 2014.
Sure, ideally the U.S. would have found several left backs to replace him since the 2014 World Cup, but forget that for a minute and think about just how incredible it is that Beasley is still playing at this level. The man is immortal.
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Options in the center of defense
John Brooks and Cameron were terrific together at last year's Copa America and looked like the Americans' go-to centerbacks for the foreseeable future, but Brooks hasn't been at that level of play for Hertha Berlin and Cameron is fresh off a long injury absence. Are they still the top options in the center of defense?
The good news for Arena is he has choices. Omar Gonzalez has played well when called upon for Pachuca, who have the best defense in Liga MX. Orozco is playing regularly for a very good Tijuana team and Tim Ream is a dependable option as well. Add in Zimmerman, who is one of the best in MLS, and Arena has plenty of directions to go if he doesn't want to pair Brooks and Cameron, who still make a pretty attractive combo to begin with.
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Look to FC Dallas for the kids
FC Dallas are the best club in MLS and, without question, the best developer of talent in the league so it's no wonder that Acosta and Zimmerman represent the new young players in the national team. The two Dallas players have impressed over the last several years in MLS and bring not just quality, but skill on the ball and tactical awareness that is often lacking in young players (especially young Americans).
Arena has spoken glowingly about both players before and they appear to be two of his favorite youngsters, but it's also notable that they both come from FC Dallas. Nobody in the U.S. does a better job of developing young talent right now.