REUTERS - Head coach Bruce Arena has opted for a tried-and-tested group of players for the United States’ upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Honduras.
Third in the final CONCACAF qualifying group for the 2018 World Cup, the United States face Costa Rica in New Jersey on Friday and then visit Estadio Olimpico in San Pedro Sula for a Sept. 5 clash with Honduras.
The top three sides qualify automatically for Russia with the fourth-best side going into an intercontinental playoff against a team from the Asian confederation for another berth.
All 26 players in the U.S. squad have been on international duty this year, and Arena said that experience would be vital.
“Everyone here is experienced inside the group, they know what needs to be done, what’s expected of them, our style of play, and how we go about doing things,” Arena said in comments published by U.S. Soccer Federation.
“I think since everyone’s been with us now in 2017, it’ll make what is a really difficult week a little bit easier.”
Forward Clint Dempsey is the most experienced player in the squad with 39 caps. Arena has also called up Jozy Altidore (38 caps), Tim Howard (36) and captain Michael Bradley (35), who won the Golden Ball as the Gold Cup’s top player in July.
Arena, who was handed a tall order of getting their qualifying campaign back on track when he returned as coach last November, will have to do without talented defenders John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin due to injuries.
Arena has guided the side to eight points from four qualifiers since taking over from Juergen Klinsmann, who was fired after back-to-back losses to Mexico and Costa Rica left the United States dead last in qualifying.
“We’ve experienced injuries throughout the year and that’s all part of it with national teams or club teams, but I have enough confidence in these players,” said Arena.
“The experiences we’ve had together during the year will allow us to deal with any kind of issues that may arise as we get involved in these next two qualifying matches.”
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach/), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC)
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Hamburg)
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Peter Rutherford