Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard returns headline United States squad
Clint Dempsey will make his international return for the United States' upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama.
Manager Bruce Arena announced his 24-man squad for matches against Honduras in San Jose, California, on March 24 and Panama in Panama City four days later. The squad consists of 14 MLS players and 10 who play abroad. Nineteen of the players have played in World Cup qualifiers, and 10 of those have appeared in at least 12 qualifying matches.
"We put together a roster that we think has balance and one that gives us an option in playing a number of different ways," Arena said. "It's a roster where the primary rationale is to help us be successful in these two games, but we're also looking down the road and bringing in some young players that we think have an opportunity to be an important part of the national team program as well. Our approach to these games is simple: We want to win."
Dempsey, the Seattle Sounders forward, was shut down for the latter four months of the 2016 MLS season due to symptoms related to an irregular heartbeat, and at one point it was unlikely he would participate in these qualifiers.
He was not included in the annual January camp for domestic players. Yet Dempsey went the full 90 minutes in both of Seattle's games to start the 2017 MLS season, and he will be available for a U.S. team that currently sits last in the final Hexagonal standings.
"Clint has a history that is almost second to none," said Arena via a team spokesperson. "We know there are some good days still ahead for Clint. 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. To have that kind of player available I think is invaluable."
Dempsey isn't the only player who has won the race to recover from an injury. Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard saw his first minutes last weekend since undergoing groin surgery following last November's 2-1 World Cup qualifying defeat to Mexico. He looked sharp in last weekend's 1-0 defeat to the New York Red Bulls and was beaten only on an own goal by Eric Miller.
The United States will also welcome back Stoke City defender Geoff Cameron, who sat out more than four months with an MCL strain but recently returned to the lineup. His return should allow him to resume his partnership with John Brooks in the center of the defense.
Newcastle United defender DeAndre Yedlin and Nottingham Forest fullback Eric Lichaj will miss the matches due to injury. Timothy Chandler is suspended for the Honduras match, and Arena opted to not make the Eintracht Frankfurt defender travel for just one match. Jermaine Jones is also suspended but was included on the roster.
"Jones is a different situation," said Arena. "He's a domestic player, so I think that makes a little more sense."
Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan was also omitted, losing out to the LA Galaxy's Sebastian Lletget and the Portland Timbers' Darlington Nagbe.
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Middlesbrough), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders: John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas)
Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Bobby Wood (Hamburg)
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.