Having safely navigated his team through the group stage of this summer’s Gold Cup, United States Mens’ National Team coach Bruce Arena has announced six lineup changes ahead of this week’s knockout round.
According to the tournament’s rules, coaches are allowed to make six changes following the conclusion of the group stage, provided players who are added to the lineup were included in the preliminary squad for each team.
Arena, who is in his second stint in charge of the USMNT, has sent home goalkeepers Brad Guzan and Sean Johnson, midfielders Alejandro Bedoya and Christian Roldan, and strikers Kelyn Rowe and Dom Dwyer.
In their place the former LA Galaxy coach has called up a number of veteran players, including Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard, Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley, Toronto striker Jozy Altidore and Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey. Portland Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe has also been added to the squad, along with Dallas FC keeper Jesse Gonzalez, who is officially representing the U.S. for the first time since switching his allegiance from Mexico.
Howard is perhaps the most experienced keeper in the history of U.S. soccer. Like Dempsey, Altidore and Bradley, the former Everton keeper has more than 100 caps. Dempsey’s call-up meanwhile, gives the Sounders man a shot at overhauling Landon Donovan to become the USMNT’s all-time leading scorer. The former Fulham player currently has 56 goals in a U.S. jersey, one behind Donovan’s 57.
The experienced Altidore sits in third in the all-time goal scoring standings, with 37.
In addition to the added firepower up top and reliability between the sticks, midfield stalwart Bradley will bring stability to the center of the park. Nagbe has impressed in his previous outings with the U.S. and will bring confidence in possession as well as the ability to start attacks from deep to the squad.
Getting Gonzalez to switch was considered a coup for the U.S., although the 22-year-old is likely to serve as backup for Howard in this tournament.
The Yanks will meet El Salvador on Wednesday in a one-and-done knockout game at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. Although undefeated in group stage play, the U.S. has been criticized for underperforming at the Gold Cup this summer. After a sluggish draw in their opener against Panama, the Americans struggled to a 3-2 win over minnows Martinique and only really kicked into gear in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Nicaragua.
While in normal circumstances a win over El Salvador would be all but a given, this Cuscatlecos squad has impressed at this summer’s tournament, overcoming a narrow loss to Mexico in their opener to beat Martinique and draw against Jamaica. El Salvador also boasts group stage standout Rodolfo Zelaya in their lineup. Zelaya has scored one goal and set up a number of others during the Salvadorians’ run to the knockout rounds.
Wednesday’s other knockout stage match will see regional heavyweights Costa Rica take on Panama. The Ticos came through the group stage undefeated, as did Panama, who following the draw with the U.S. notched convincing wins over Nicaragua and Martinique.
Thursday’s games will see Mexico take on Honduras and Jamaica going head-to-head with Canada. The four teams that progress through this week’s knockout matches will meet this weekend in the semifinals ahead of next week’s final.
Watch the United States vs. El Salvador on Wednesday, July 19 at 9:00 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1.
Watch Mexico vs. Honduras on Thursday, July 20 at 10:30 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1.
View the full Gold Cup schedule.