National team coach Bruce Arena has chosen a veteran 27-man roster for next month’s World Cup soccer qualifiers with Trinidad and Tobago as well as Mexico, with nine players coming off European clubs and six getting their first call-up of Arena’s six-month tenure as the U.S. coach.
The U.S., fourth in the six-team CONCACAF standings four games into the 10-match qualifying tournament, will play the Caribbean team on June 8 in Commerce City, Colo., then fly to Mexico City for a showdown with the unbeaten group leaders on June 11.
Players began reporting for training in Denver on Sunday, ahead of next Saturday’s exhibition game with Venezuela in suburban Salt Lake City.
“We have a good group,” said Arena, who replaced Jurgen Klinsmann as U.S. coach last fall. “I’m still in the early going with this team and I haven’t seen all of our players. This camp gives me the opportunity to see new faces we haven’t had in with the team yet.”
Those include defenders DeAndre Yedlin and Timmy Chandler, midfielder Fabian Johnson and forward Bobby Wood, all European-based players who missed the March qualifiers because of injury.
But Arena’s team also includes several returnees, among them forward Clint Dempsey, who leads the team with 38 appearances and 18 goals in World Cup qualifiers; midfielder Christian Pulisic, who had a goal and three assists in the two March games; and defender DaMarcus Beasley, who is bidding to become the first U.S. player to appear in five different qualifying tournaments.
Also named to roster were three players currently with Mexican clubs — former Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), former Chivas USA player Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna) and former Galaxy academy player Paul Arriola (Tijuana) — as well as national team veterans Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and Tim Howard.
Arena brought his team to train in the thin, mile-high air of Colorado in an attempt to prepare the players for Mexico City, which is more than 2,000 feet higher than Denver. But dealing with the schedule may be even more difficult than adjusting to the altitude because the U.S. will be playing twice in four days with a 3 1/2-hour flight in between.
“That’s certainly going to be challenging,” Arena said. “It will require that we have a number of players ready to play. I guarantee we will not be playing the same team from Game 1 to Game 2. There will be a number of changes for the game in Mexico so we’ve built a strong roster to allow us to do that.”
The U.S. (1-2-1) will rejoin the qualifying tournament trailing Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama with six games to play. The top three teams advance automatically to next summer’s World Cup in Russia.
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Bobby Wood (Hamburg)