U.S. men's national team coach Bruce Arena has pretty much his pick of the player pool these days. Aside from a couple injuries, Arena has everyone available for the USMNT's World Cup qualifiers vs. Trinidad & Tobago (Thursday, FS1, 7 p.m. ET) and Mexico (Sunday, FS1, 7:30 p.m.) – but that could change if the wrong player gets a yellow card.
Here are the five players who are one yellow card away from being suspended for the USMNT's match vs. Mexico if they got a yellow vs. T&T, and a look at what Arena would do if they got suspended:
Copyright The Associated Press.
There's no question that Altidore is the No. 1 option in the USMNT striker pool and if Altidore were to be suspended, it would almost certainly force Arena to change course. If Altidore were to pick up a yellow card vs. Trinidad & Tobago, Arena will have just three other options to consider: Clint Dempsey, Bobby Wood or Jordan Morris.
In all likelihood, Arena will be using a two-striker set up, and if Arena's preferred pairing is Altidore-Dempsey, like in the previous qualifiers, then Wood would be the most like-for-like replacement for Altidore. Morris is quick and good at getting behind back lines, but he doesn't offer the same hold-up play that Altidore and Wood do. The problem is that Wood looked pretty quiet in Saturday's friendly vs. Venezuela and he might still not be 100 percent fit after an injury late in the Bundesliga season.
If Arena uses Bradley the way he did in the last couple of qualifiers, Bradley will sit deep in the midfield and play a holding role whether they go with a flat 4-4-2 or a diamond midfield. If Bradley were to be suspended, Arena has a lot of options – as it is, Arena has more choices for how to organize his central midfield than anywhere else, and he'll have to make some tough choices again.
The best, most like-for-like choice may be Dax McCarty, who is one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS. But Geoff Cameron has been playing a similar role for Stoke lately and Arena has other players he can slot into center back over Cameron. Kellyn Acosta is another attractive midfield option though – traditionally more of a defensive midfielder, Acosta has grown into an excellent box-to-box midfielder. He could take on Bradley's role, or Arena could revise the duties in the midfield and pair Acosta with someone else, like Alejandro Bedoya, splitting the attacking and defending duties.
Losing Cameron would impact the USMNT defensively, but how exactly depends on where Arena plans using him. For now, it looks like Cameron remains a center back. Saturday's match vs. Venezuela was the first time Cameron has played there under Arena, but Arena did make subs and got a look Omar Gonzalez and Matt Hedges at center back too.
We thought Cameron looked great vs. Venezuela and he was one of our top players of the match, but Arena seemed impressed with Hedges and Gonzalez as well. Still, given his experience with John Brooks next to him, it seems like the best bet is that Cameron is still the first-choice center back, but either Hedges or Gonzalez will be fine back-up options.
He's one of the best defenders on the USMNT roster (and he's got the new American transfer fee record to prove it). Needless to say, it would be a tough loss if he were suspended.
Arena does have options at center back though – Geoff Cameron is an obvious choice, with Omar Gonzalez and Matt Hedges looking like the next best back-up on the roster. If Brooks is suspended, there is a question of the chemistry with whoever takes over in the center back tandem, but it's not as if the team is without quality at the spot.
Getty ImagesShaun Clark
Besler figures to be a depth piece for the USMNT, so it's unlikely he'll be at much risk of getting a yellow card.
But even if Besler did end up suspended, the USMNT should have plenty of depth behind him, between Matt Hedges, John Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Tim Ream is also a viable option.