U.S. soccer roster changes on way
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.