Clint Dempsey, the captain of last year’s World Cup team and U.S. soccer’s active leader in goals and starts, was left off Juergen Klinsmann’s 23-man roster for this month’s World Cup qualifiers with St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago.
“At this point in time, I want to give the younger strikers a chance to prove themselves, and this is a good stage to do it," Klinsmann said. “I communicated with Clint about it and it’s all fine.”
Dempsey, 32, is a veteran of three World Cups. Among the forwards chosen in his absence are the Galaxy’s Gyasi Zardes and Alan Gordon. Zardes has played in 17 games for the U.S. this season, tied for the team high, while Gordon’s most recent appearance came in the second half of a Gold Cup game against Jamaica in July.
In addition to the 24-year-old Zardes, Klinsmann also called up two other young forwards in 22-year-old Bobby Wood and 21-year-old Jordan Morris.
The U.S. begins group play in CONCACAF’s semifinal round of qualifying next Friday against St. Vincent & the Grenadines in St. Louis. The second match is Nov. 17 at Trinidad & Tobago. The team will gather in Miami on Monday to begin training.
“We’re all excited about starting World Cup qualifying toward Russia 2018,” Klinsmann said. “Every time you say the words ‘World Cup’ it means so much to everyone involved that it gets you pumped up and energetic. The players realize it’s going to be a long marathon toward Russia 2018, but we have to start it on the right foot.”
However, Klinsmann’s team goes into qualifying in a slump of historic proportions, having lost three consecutive games on U.S. soil for the first time since 1997, while going winless in four games against CONCACAF foes for the first time in five decades.
In a mild surprise, German American defender Fabian Johnson, who Klinsmann angrily dismissed from the team last month after he begged out of the final minutes of the U.S.’ 3-2 loss to Mexico, was called up. Out with illness or injury are goalkeeper Nick Rimando, defenders Brad Evans and John Brooks and midfielder Alejandro Bedoya.
New to the team are 20-year-old defender Matt Miazga of the New York Red Bulls and 25-year-old midfielder Darlington Nagbe of the Portland Timbers.
Nagbe, who was born in Liberia where his father once captained the national team, became a U.S. citizen in September.
Here is the full roster, with players’ pro teams in perentheses:
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Tim Howard (Everton)
Defenders: Ventura Alvarado (Club America), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), Tim Ream (Fulham FC), Brek Shea (Orlando City SC)
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Miguel Ibarra (Club Leon), Jermaine Jones (New England Revolution), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland)
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Alan Gordon (Galaxy), Jordan Morris (Stanford), Bobby Wood (Union Berlin), Gyasi Zardes (Galaxy)
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