US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s plans for World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico have been hit by injuries, leaving the German to call in several inexperienced players for the games.
The US, who lost to Honduras in their opening game, face Costa Rica in Denver on Friday and Mexico at the Azteca Stadium on March 26 as they battle for a place in next year’s World Cup finals in Brazil.
“We had to deal with injuries over the past few days and weeks,” Klinsmann said on Monday. “But we have a roster that gives us the confidence to approach both games very positively. We have a group players coming in who have everything to get the job done.”
Among the eight players missing through injury are first-choice goalkeeper Tim Howard (back), fullbacks Steve Cherundolo (knee) and Fabian Johnson (hip) and midfielder Danny Williams (illness).
Klinsmann is also without Landon Donovan, who is taking a break from the game, and has not selected defender Carlos Bocanegra who is not featuring for his Spanish club Racing Santander.
The US coach defended his decision to leave out Bocanegra, who has 110 caps, but did not feature in the 2-1 loss to Honduras last month.
“The reason he is not here is simply that he is not playing, not getting any minutes with Racing, he has no flow, no rhythm,” Klinsmann said.
“He understands the situation. Carlos is still in the picture, this is not the end of his national team career, but he understands that he is right now behind other players,” he said.
Klinsmann called the Costa Rica game a “must win” for his side ahead of the tough task that awaits in Mexico City where the US have never won a qualifier.
Several among those called up as replacements come from North America’s Major League Soccer with Real Salt Lake’s Tony Beltran and San Jose Earthquakes’ Justin Morrow both named as fullback options despite making just one friendly appearance for the Stars and Stripes.
Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan is expected to start in place of Everton’s Howard.
Klinsmann has plenty of options in attack and in midfield, but he will have to field a new-look defense with midfielder Maurice Edu an option to drop back into central defense.