Union captain Alejandro Bedoya and Hershey native Christian Pulisic are among 26 players summoned by head coach Bruce Arena for the U.S. men’s soccer team’s do-or-die World Cup qualifiers next weekend. But the biggest news is elsewhere in midfield.
Sporting Kansas City playmaker Benny Feilhaber has been recalled to the national team for the first time since this past February, when he played in a friendly against Jamaica that concluded the national team’s winter training camp.
Prior to then, the 32-year-old had been in an exile that began in early 2014, when he had a falling-out with then-head coach Jurgen Klinsmann (among others).
“I didn’t expect it at all, obviously,” Feilhaber told the Kansas City Star. “I had moved on from believing it was still an opportunity there for me. It’s really shocking.”
He has 43 caps and two goals in his national team career. One of those strikes remains among the all-time greats in national team history: the title-winner in the 2007 Gold Cup Final against arch-rival Mexico.
Feilhaber hasn’t played in a World Cup qualifying game since 2009.
“I think my exact words were, ‘If you need me to be a cheerleader, I’ll be a cheerleader,’” he said. “Hopefully I get more of a role than that, but it’s just exciting to be part of that group. Literally whatever they need me to do, I’m ready to do.”
Other notable inclusions are right back DeAndre Yedlin after recovering from a hamstring injury suffered in August; centerback Michael Orozco Fiscal, a former Union defender;
and winger/forward Gyasi Zardes.
(Strike that last one. Zardes withdrew from the squad a few hours after the roster announcement due to a groin injury suffered Saturday night while playing for the Los Angeles Galaxy.)
Among the notable exclusions are veteran winger/outside back Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach, Germany); playmaker Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls); centerback Matt Miazga (Vitesse Arnhem, Netherlands on loan from England’s Chelsea) and young central midfielder Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders).
Roldan spent the weekend in Philadelphia with the Sounders for Sunday’s game against Bedoya’s Union in Chester. Fellow Sounder Jordan Morris remains out of action due to a hamstring injury suffered in mid-September.
The Americans currently sit in fourth place in the six-team race for CONCACAF’s three automatic berths in next summer’s World Cup.
They host third-place Panama in Orlando on Friday (7 p.m., ESPN2 and Univision), then visit last-place Trinidad & Tobago on Oct. 9 (8 p.m., beIN Sports and Universo).
The fourth-place team will face Syria or Australia in a home-and-away playoff in mid-November.
“When I took the job last November, if you said to me, ‘You’d be in position in game nine to play a game at home that you had to win, would you take that?’ I would say ‘Yes,'” Arena said in remarks distributed by the U.S. Soccer Federation. “[Whether] we need four or six points in our last two games, I think that’s fine and we’ll get it done.”
Here is the full U.S. squad:
Goalkeepers (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake).
Defenders (9): DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca, Mexico), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana, Mexico); Tim Ream (Fulham, England), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna, Mexico); DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United, England), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City).
Midfielders (9): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Alejandro Bedoya (Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers;), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Gyasi Zardes (Los Angeles Galaxy).
Forwards (5): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Hamburg, Germany).
World Cup qualifying standings
1. Mexico (8-3-5, 18 points, +8 goal difference)
2. Costa Rica (8-3-4, 15 points, +7)
3. Panama (8-4-2, 10 points, +2)
4. United States (8-3-2, 9 points +1)
5. Honduras (8-3-2, 9 points, -7)
6. Trinidad & Tobago (1-7-0, 3 points, -11)
Other Union international call-ups
— Midfielder Haris Medunjanin is headed to Bosnia to represent his country for the first time since June. The Dragons play two World Cup qualifiers in the international window: home vs. already-qualified group leader Belgium on Oct. 7 (11:50 a.m., ESPNews) and at Estonia on Oct. 10 (2:45 p.m., ESPN3).
Medunjanin’s team currently sits in second place in its European World Cup qualifying group, one point ahead of Greece.
The first-place teams in each of UEFA’s nine groups qualify for Russia automatically; the eight best second-place teams are drawn into home-and-away playoffs.
Greece goes to Cyprus on Oct. 7, which could be tricky; then hosts Gibraltar on Oct. 10, which won’t be. Both games kick off at 2:45 p.m. Eastern and will be streamed via Fox Soccer Match Pass, the network’s paid subscription service.
— Goalkeeper Andre Blake will join Jamaica for an Oct. 7 friendly at Saudi Arabia (time and TV/streaming details unknown).
Updated Oct. 7: Although Blake was called up by Jamaica, he did not go to the game. Union manager Jim Curtin said Blake made the decision to not travel.
— Midfielder Warren Creavalle was called up by Guyana for an Oct. 7 friendly at Grenada (7 p.m., no TV/streaming).
(Before you ask: No, Creavalle’s home nation is not the same one as Guiana, the French overseas territory that wrought havoc on this summer’s Gold Cup over its lack of full FIFA nation status. Guyana is a full FIFA member; Guiana only plays in CONCACAF regional competitions.)
Those three players and Bedoya will depart after Sunday’s game against Seattle.