United States football icon Clint Dempsey and teenaged wonder boy Christian Pulisic were both named in a 27-man roster to face Trinidad and Tobago in 2018 World Cup qualifying action on 8 June in Colorado.
Dempsey, who returned in March after a seven-month hiatus due to an irregular heartbeat, has not faced the Soca Warriors since 9 September 2009 when a Ricardo Clarke item gave the US a 1-0 win at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
Current Trinidad and Tobago head coach Dennis Lawrence was captaining the Warriors at the time.
Pulisic, an attacking midfielder with German Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund, has clashed with Trinidad and Tobago far more recently—and memorably. Pulisic became the United States’ youngest ever international starter on 7 September 2016 when, at just 17 years old, he produced a sterling performance in a 4-0 demolition of the Warriors at the Everbank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.
Dempsey and Pulisic are the headliners in a United States squad that has 10 Europe-based players and three from the Mexican league with the remaining 14 from the MLS competition. England Premier League goalkeeper Brad Guzan will make it 15 MLS players next month as he is set to swap Middlesbrough for Atlanta United, who are also the employers of Warriors captain Kenwyne Jones.
Arena has selected a larger than usual squad to allow for flexibility with just a three-day rest between the clash with the two island republic and their next affair away to Mexico at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. The coach is also mindful that five players—Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and Matt Besler—are carrying cards and will incur an automatic one game suspension with their next caution.
“I think we have a good group,” said Arena, via a press release. “I’m still in the early goings with this team and I haven’t seen all of our players, so this camp gives me the opportunity to see six new faces we haven’t had in with the team yet, which is valuable…
“We have a roster that has good balance all over, we have good young players and hopefully it’s a team we can put together to get us points in both games.”
The United States are unbeaten since Arena replaced Jurgen Klinsmann as head coach. They trounced Honduras 6-1 in World Cup qualifying action in California, two months ago, before holding Panama 1-1 in Panama City. And there was also a 1-0 friendly win over Jamaica and a goalless draw with Serbia.
The United States, who skipped from sixth to fourth in the CONCACAF standings as a result, will play Venezuela in Utah on 2 June before they tackle the Warriors.
Trinidad and Tobago, who have already started preparations in Commerce City, Colorado, are due to face MLS club, Colorado Rapids, in two closed-door scrimmages before facing the host nation. The Warriors then travel to San Jose to face Costa Rica on 13 June.
Trinidad and Tobago have never defeated the United States or Costa Rica on foreign soil in World Cup qualifying action while their last point away to either team came on 13 May 1989, courtesy a late Hutson “Barber” Charles finish.
At present, the Warriors are sixth and bottom of the CONCACAF Hex but trail USA by just one point and are two points adrift of third placed Panama.
The top three nations in CONCACAF will qualify automatically for the Russia 2018 World Cup while the fourth placed team head to a play off with the fifth placed country from the Asian Football Confederation.
(United States 27-man team)
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United), 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), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City);
Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Fabian Johnson (Moenchengladbach), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund);
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Bobby Wood (Hamburg).
(Provisional 21-man Trinidad and Tobago squad in Colorado training camp–minus players on MLS duty at present):
Goalkeepers: Jan Michael Williams (North East Stars), Marvin Phillip (Point Fortin Civic), Adrian Foncette (Police FC);
Defenders: Alvin Jones (W Connection), Carlos Edwards (Central FC), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Daneil Cyrus (North East Stars), Sheldon Bateau (KC Krylia Sovetov—Russia), Triston Hodge (W Connection);
Midfielders: Khaleem Hyland (KV Westerlo—Belgium), Hughtun Hector (W Connection), Leston Paul (North East Stars), Andre Boucaud (Dagenham & Redbridge—England);
Attacking midfielders: Nathan Lewis (San Juan Jabloteh), Hashim Arcia (Defence Force), Jomal Williams (Murcielagos FC—Mexico), Levi Garcia (AZ Alkmaar—Netherlands);
Forwards: Willis Plaza (East Bengal—India), Jamille Boatswain (Defence Force), Akeem Roach (Unattached), Shahdon Winchester (Murcielagos FC—Mexico).