Two of the USMNT’s best players have pulled out of the squad due to injury as the Yanks face two massive World Cup qualifiers in the next eight days.
Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson were injured in Bundesliga play this weekend, a rough start to the week for Bruce Arena as he prepares for a Friday home tilt with Honduras before a March 28 match at Panama.
Johnson was almost certainly going to play left mid or left wing for Arena, while Wood had a terrific chance to play alongside Jozy Altidore in a 4-4-2.
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Throw in DeAndre Yedlin, and Arena’s not off to a flying start.
The U.S. is dead last in World Cup qualifying after beginning life in the Hex with a 2-1 home loss to Mexico — Wood scored the goal — and a 4-0 humiliation at Costa Rica.
Honduras beat perceived group minnow Trinidad and Tobago after a 1-0 loss at Panama. They also have good road acumen, losing 1-0 at full-strength Argentina and drawing at Mexico in a September WCQ.
Anyone who’s watched early season Houston Dynamo has seen the danger that lurks with Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto in attack, not to mention Anderlecht’s Andy Najar and Tenerife’s Anthony Lozano.
So how worried should U.S. supporters be?
Probably not too much.
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Honduras is a good CONCACAF side, to be sure, but the USMNT should operate beyond injury concerns when it comes to Los Catrachos.
The Yanks beat Honduras 2-1 the last time they met, a July 2015 Gold Cup match. That was a lineup that had Ventura Alvarado next to Timmy Chandler, Kyle Beckerman at holding mid, and Gyasi Zardes at left mid. Yeah, seriously. And they won.
Before that it was a 1-1 draw in Florida, and a 3-1 win in the 2014 Gold Cup semi.
Plus, the Yanks were without Geoff Cameron, Clint Dempsey, and Tim Howard in the last round of qualifiers. If that wasn’t enough for Jurgen Klinsmann to keep his job a few more months, than day-saving Arena can’t be excused for not having two wide men and a striker.
Here’s a lineup Arena can use (although his decision not to call in Timmy Chandler because of a one-match suspension is a bit baffling. Will the Bundesliga left wingback get a call for Panama?).
Zusi — Cameron — Brooks — Beasley
Nagbe — Bedoya
Altidore — Dempsey
Quioto — Lozano — Elis
Najar — Boniek Garcia
Izaguierre — Figueroa — Figueroa — Beckeles