USA coach Bruce Arena called upon forward Clint Dempsey and goalkeeper Tim Howard, both veterans coming off serious injuries, for World Cup qualifying duty Wednesday ahead of crucial matches.
Geoff Cameron also is back with the team for the first time since September's World Cup qualifiers after a four-month stint on the sidelines with a knee injury. The Sounders do not play a league match during the worldwide break, but do face Necaxa in a club friendly. A 2-1 home defeat by Mexico in November and a 4-0 thrashing by Costa Rica four days later ended Jürgen Klinsmann's reign in charge.
To qualify for next summer's World Cup, the USA must finish in the top three of the six-team hexagonal. "We know there are some good days still ahead for Clint".
"Obviously being suspended for the first game, I didn't think it was worth having [Chandler] travel from Europe", Arena said.
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He also asked them to cast their votes in the April 16 referendum saying it would be best response to the European nations. That compared with a lead of some 12 seats held by Wilders at the start of the year.
And these are the players Arena thinks can accomplish the mission. In addition to Kljestan, Arena decided not to choose defender Timothy Chandler, who would have missed the Honduras match on a suspension; Kansas City veterans Graham Zusi, Matt Besler and Benny Feilhaber; defender Steve Birnbaum; Julian Green; and DeAndre Yedlin, who is injured, as was Eric Lichaj, who was hurt last weekend playing for Nottingham Forest. Our approach to these games is simple: "We want to win". The biggest surprise on the list is also one of the biggest stars in U.S. Soccer history: Clint Dempsey.
Clint Dempsey will return to the USMNT for matches against Honduras and Panama. "He's made great progress in preseason and his first two games with Seattle, and we think he's a player that can still help us in these games - perhaps at a reduced role - but a player that still has a tremendous history of scoring goals and creating opportunities. He's a domestic player, so I think that makes a little more sense". Michael Orozco and Geoff Cameron are also options, but Johnson is the more natural fit. Nineteen players have World Cup qualifying experience and 10 have made 12 or more qualifying appearances.
"How they look in training will determine who starts in the goal", Arena said. The 24-man squad includes several mainstays of recent years, like DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore.