U.S. soc­cer ros­ter changes on way

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL / NFL -

NEW YORK — U.S. Coach Bruce Arena has used 48 play­ers dur­ing a 14-game un­beaten streak since re­plac­ing Jur­gen Klins­mann in Novem­ber, in­clud­ing seven who made their na­tional team de­buts.

There could be many fresh faces for next year’s World Cup, led by teenager star Chris­tian Pulisic. Arena’s ros­ter projects to in­clude only about half the play­ers who made the trip to Brazil in 2014.

Arena re­de­fined roles for Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Fabian John­son, and el­e­vated Jorge Vil­lafana, Kel­lyn Acosta and Dar­ling­ton Nagbe on the depth chart. With 10 months left, Arena’s process to se­lect his 23 World Cup play­ers has be­come clear.

“We’ve made progress, but we have a long way to go,” Arena said af­ter the Amer­i­cans beat Ja­maica in the CONCACAF Gold Cup fi­nal Wed­nes­day night. “Do­ing this well past mid­stream I found to be a dif­fi­cult chal­lenge.”

Bradley has been dropped into a deeper de­fen­sive mid­field role, while John­son has been es­tab­lished in wide mid­field in­stead of his re­peated shut­tling be­tween there and the back line. Dempsey, back from a heart pro­ce­dures at age 34, has been tran­si­tioned from a reg­u­lar to a spot starter and sec­ond-half sub­sti­tute.

“Clint has been fan­tas­tic in the role we gave him the last two games,” Arena said.

The coach gave Vil­lafana his in­ter­na­tional de­but, and the 27-year-old has be­come the first-choice left back. Acosta has seen sub­stan­tial play­ing time in de­fen­sive mid­field. And af­ter get­ting dropped by Klins­mann, Nagbe has re­turned and earned Arena’s praise for his play on the mid­field flanks.

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