A rash of injuries to the U.S. national team's defender pool threatened to wreak havoc on Bruce Arena's selections for the September World Cup qualifiers, but at least one key figure has recovered to help give the U.S. defense a boost.
Omar Gonzalez joins a veteran-laden 26-man squad called in by Arena for the upcoming qualifiers against Costa Rica and Honduras. His return from injury comes just in time to have him available to help deal with the injury absence of John Brooks.
There were no real surprises in the squad, with 23 of the 26 players Arena summoned having been called in for last June's qualifiers. Eric Lichaj, Cristian Roldan and Chris Wondolowski are the only players on the squad who didn't take part in the June qualifiers, with Wondolowski being the lone call-up not to take part in either the June qualifiers or the Gold Cup. A total of 18 members of the squad were a part of the team's Gold Cup championship run in July.
Borussia Dortmund standout Christian Pulisic headlines an attack that features red-hot Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore, as well as Gold Cup hero Jordan Morris. U.S. captain Michael Bradley is back after a summer that saw him score against Mexico and win the Golden Ball at the Gold Cup.
The U.S. defense will be without two regular starters, with Brooks being joined on the shelf by DeAndre Yedlin, who has been sidelined with a hamstring injury. Gonzalez gives Arena another option to start alongside Geoff Cameron in central defense, along with left center back options Tim Ream and Matt Besler. Graham Zusi and Erich Lichaj will be in contention to start at right back, with Lichaj getting the call-up over Timmy Chandler.
Fabian Johnson also recovered from a recent injury just in time to be included. The Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder had recently missed action with his club due to a back injury, but played 10 minutes in Monchengladbach's recent 2-2 draw against FC Augsburg to earn his return to the national team.
The U.S. heads into the September qualifiers in third place in the Hexagonal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, with eight points, and can move into a tie for second place with a win against Costa Rica on Friday at Red Bull Arena. The Americans will then travel to Honduras to face the Catrachos on Sept. 5. Honduras is in fifth place in the Hex, three points behind the U.S., with a trip to face Trinidad & Tobago looming on Friday.
Here is the 26-man squad Arena has called in for September's World Cup qualifiers:
DEFENDERS: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG), Jorge Villafana (Santos Laguna/MEX), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
MIDFIELDERS: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)
FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER)