Bruce Arena called 32 MLS players into winter camp with the U.S. national team Thursday, among them Galaxy attackers Sebastian Lletget and Gyasi Zardes.
The three-week camp, the first of Arena’s second term as national team coach, will begin Tuesday at StubHub Center and conclude with frendlies against Serbia in San Diego on Jan. 29 and against Jamaica in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Feb. 3
Because the camp does not fall during a FIFA international break, Arena was unable to call up players on teams currently in season. But some of the picks he did make showed a sharp break between himself and former national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who was fired after the U.S. lost a pair of World Cup qualifiers last November.
Arena, who coached the Galaxy the past nine seasons, last led the national team in 2006.
Six of the players Arena named to his roster were selected for the first time in more than a year, among them defender Chad Marshall and midfielder Dax McCarty, who last played for the U.S. under Coach Bob Bradley. Also recalled was Sporting Kansas City midfielder Benny Feilhaber, who last year charged Klinsmann with playing favorites with his national team selections.
“I don’t know what that reason is,” Feilhaber, who hasn’t worn a national team jersey in three years, said last January. “I don’t know if Jurgen doesn’t like these players, he doesn’t like their attitude, he doesn’t like their faces, he thinks they are ugly. I don’t know.”
Also returning to the team is 34-year-old defender DaMarcus Beasley, who last played for the U.S. in 2015. Arena’s roster features players from 15 MLS clubs, among them nine World Cup veterans and eight MLS all-stars. Notable first-time selections include Lletget, who played two seasons for Arena with the Galaxy; Swiss-born goalkeeper Stefan Frei of the Seattle Sounders; and Gambian-born midfielder Kekuta Manneh of Vancouver. Frei and Manneh have been allowed to take part in the camp while awaiting FIFA approval to play for the U.S.
Other surprising call-ups include Portland Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe, New England Revolution forward Juan Agudelo, Philadelphia forward Chris Pontius and Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi, who is listed on the U.S. team roster as a defender.
Among those missing is Seattle forward Clint Dempsey, who sat out last fall’s World Cup qualifiers because of an irregular heartbeat. Arena had said last month that he expected Dempsey to rejoin the team for the January camp. Defender Matt Besler of Sporting Kansas City and Colorado goalkeeper Tim Howard were also left off the team with injuries.
“With games at the end of the month and the World Cup qualifiers in March, this is going to be a critical time for us,” Arena said in a statement. “It’s important that we come in and quickly establish an understanding of what we are about and how we go about building our team.
“As for the players, we are coming into this with an open mind, so it’s a huge opportunity for them.”
The U.S., currently in last place in the six-team table with eight games remaining, returns to World Cup qualifying in March with a home match against Honduras and a game in Panama.
Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Stefan Frei (Seattle Sounders FC), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls)
Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Unattached), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Greg Garza (Atlanta United FC), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Taylor Kemp (D.C. United), Chad Marshall (Seattle Sounders FC), Keegan Rosenberry (Philadelphia Union), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Jermaine Jones (Unattached), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Sebastian Lletget (Galaxy), Kekuta Manneh (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)
Forwards: Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Gyasi Zardes (Galaxy)
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