Clint Dempsey returns to USA squad for crucial World Cup qualifiers

Clint Dempsey of the U.S. (8) is tackled by Belgium's goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (on the ground) during extra time

Clint Dempsey, the US national team’s second top scorer of all time, is back in the mix to try to spark his team’s World Cup qualifying campaign into life next week.

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Dempsey missed the last four months of the MLS season with an irregular heartbeat, and had been a doubt for the vital double-header against Honduras and Panama. But he played the full 90 minutes in Seattle’s first two games of the new MLS season, and is back in a 24-man squad that new coach Bruce Arena believes is balanced, varied and equipped to win.

Arena, who leads USA in his first competitive game of his second spell as national team coach, said: “We put together a roster that we think has balance and one that gives us an option in playing a number of different ways. 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.”

USA currently sit bottom of their qualifying group after two defeats in their opening two matches. A 2-1 home defeat by Mexico in November and a 4-0 thrashing by Costa Rica four days later ended Jürgen Klinsmann’s reign in charge.

Colorado Rapids keeper Tim Howard also returns to the squad after spending time on the sidelines with a groin injury, and so does Stoke’s Geoff Cameron, who was missing with a knee injury. Fourteen of the players selected in the 24 are from Major League Soccer, up from 10 in November.

Arena said Dempsey’s experience would prove invaluable, but hinted that he might not play every minute of both games.

“Clint has a history that is almost second to none,” he said. “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.”

But there was no room in the squad for Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan, a finalist in last year’s MLS MVP race. Sebastian Lletget of LA Galaxy and the Portland Timbers’ Darlington Nagbe are included, and there is room for Christian Pulisic, who has been showing some excellent form for Borussia Dortmund.

USA host Honduras on 24 March and travel to Panama four days later.

USA squad for World Cup qualifiers

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)

Powered by article was written by Guardian sport, for on Wednesday 15th March 2017 20.47 Europe/ © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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