Arena hints at MLS-heavy USMNT lineup vs. Honduras

Johan Ordonez
The U.S. national team coach has indicated he'll use fewer Europe-based players for Tuesday's World Cup qualifier in San Pedro Sula

U.S. national team coach Bruce Arena has indicated he'll use an MLS-heavy lineup for Tuesday's World Cup qualifier against Honduras.

Arena included five Europe-based players — Tim Ream, Geoff Cameron, Fabian Johnson, Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood — in his lineup for a 2-0 loss to Costa Rica on Friday in Harrison, New Jersey.

But the 65-year-old has hinted he'll turn to more domestic players when the U.S. faces Honduras in the hot and humid conditions of San Pedro Sula, alluding to the fact that MLS is midseason while the European leagues are less than a month into the new campaign.

"There is a big difference at this time of the year for the European players," Arena said in quotes published by The Washington Post. "They're not that fit yet and they are not used to these conditions. So you’d have to think, if they are going to play in one of these two games, it’s going to be in the first game. Common sense would tell you that, and there are exceptions to the rule."

The setback against Costa Rica was the Americans' first loss since Arena began his second stint as coach in November, with the U.S. coming off a 5-0-1 run to the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July.

None of the Europe-based players who started Friday was a part of that squad, and Arena has second-guessed his decision to choose them for the key qualifier.

"We had players who played in June and we didn't see them again until September," Arena said. "That's a big gap, and maybe in retrospect you don't even use them. Maybe you stick with the guys you had in the Gold Cup. To get a real feel for where [the Europe-based players] are physically is challenging."

At least one player plying his trade in Europe is a safe bet to start again Tuesday, with Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic already the Americans' most influential attacker.

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CONCACAF opponents have shown a tendency to foul the 18-year-old star, with Pulisic struggling to making his usual impact against a physical Costa Rica team at Red Bull Arena.

"He can't get frustrated by it, and if he's a little wiser about it, maybe it will help create some advantages for us as well," Arena said. "Find the next play in the right spots of the field to draw fouls and maybe we get a penalty or a free kick that is dangerous. … We've talked to him. We'll find out tomorrow if it's gotten any better."

The U.S. (2-3-2) sits third in the final stage of World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF with three matches remaining. The top three teams earn automatic passage to Russia 2018, with the fourth-place finisher drawn into a playoff against an Asian side.