Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Rowe and forward Gyasi Zardes will not accompany former Coach Bruce Arena to San Diego for the U.S. national team’s first game of the year Sunday against Serbia after Arena trimmed the training camp roster to 23 players Friday.
Two other Galaxy players — midfielders Sebastian Lletget and Jermaine Jones — will make the trip after surviving the cut. Meanwhile Toronto forward Jozy Altidore will become the 17th player in U.S. history to reach 100 international caps if he plays against Serbia or in next Friday’s exhibition against Jamaica in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Sunday’s friendly, which kicks off at 1 p.m. at Qualcomm Stadium, will be televised on ESPN2 and UniMas. The game is the first in Arena’s second stint with the U.S. He coached the team to World Cup appearances in 2002 and 2006 before joining the Galaxy, where he won three MLS Cups in eight full seasons. He was called back to the national team last month to replace Jurgen Klinsmann following losses to Mexico and Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying.
Rowe, a late addition to the U.S. roster, was sent back to the Galaxy after Arena settled on a trio of three keepers: Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando, Luis Robles of the New York Red Bulls and San Jose’s David Bingham. Zardes, meanwhile, was dropped from the roster with what’s being described as a minor contusion in his right knee. He missed the last three days of training with the injury.
Also released back to their MLS teams were defenders Keegan Rosenberry (Philadelphia) and Taylor Kemp (D.C. United), midfielder Will Trapp (Columbus) and forward Chris Wondolowski (San Jose).
Wondolowski, 33, is the most veteran of the quartet with 35 caps and a World Cup appearance.
“Over these two weeks we’ve gotten a really good reaction out of the players. They [made] the task of trimming this roster virtually impossible,” Arena said.
“You could say that [I am] an idiot on the five or six players that have departed because they all have earned a spot. They’ve all done so well.”
“I’ve always felt he’s a player that needed an opportunity with the national team,” Arena said of Villafana, who currently plays for Mexican club Santos Laguna. “He’s a good, experienced left back. He defends the position well. He’s a pretty good passer. He’s a player we needed to take a look at.”
Zardes’ place with the national team is secure despite his absence this weekend, Arena said.
“He’s had a very good camp,” Arena said. “I anticipate that he’ll play an important role with the national team.”
Sunday’s game is important for the U.S., said Arena, who is trying to restore confidence and positivity after the November losses dropped the U.S. to the bottom of its six-team table two games into the 10-game final round of World Cup qualifying.
The U.S. returns to World Cup qualifying in March against Honduras and Panama.
Here is the complete U.S. roster for Sunday’s match against Serbia:
Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), 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), Chad Marshall (Seattle Sounders FC), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna, Mexico), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Midfielders: Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Jermaine Jones (Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Sebastian Lletget (Galaxy), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union)
Forwards: Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC)