(Tuesday, October 14, 2008) -- There has been a growing clamor for Kenny Cooper to get a shot with the United States men. Yet, when the FC Dallas striker was called by U.S. manager Bob Bradley for Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against Trinidad & Tobago, Cooper declined.
"I had picked up a virus and have been playing with a sprained ankle," Cooper said in a written statement. "Considering the importance of my club's game versus Real Salt Lake this week and that the national team has already clinched a berth in the next round of qualifying, I felt it was the right thing to do to stay in Dallas and make sure I get well, and hopefully there will be other opportunities down the line."
On the strength of a 4-0 record with two matches remaining in Group A of the semifinal round, the U.S. clinched advancement to the six-nation final round-robin of CONCACAF qualifying. This allows the Americans to look at some other players when they travel to face T&T Wednesday in Port of Spain in an 8 p.m. qualifier to be televised by ESPN and Spanish-language Galavision.
While the match means nothing to the U.S., which has clinched first place, T&T is tied for second place with Guatemala at 1-0-2 with five points. The top two finishers in each of three semifinal groups advance to the finals.
As he promised after an easy 6-1 rout of Cuba Saturday at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., Bradley made numerous changes, releasing eight of the 18 players on his game roster, plus injured defender Jay DeMerit. He added four players from Major League Soccer to four others who participated in last week's training camp in Washington, but who were not active for the Cuba game.
Defender Carlos Bocanegra headed back to France, midfielder Michael Bradley and defender Steve Cherundolo returned to Germany, goalkeeper Tim Howard, DeMerit and midfielder Clint Dempsey went back to England, while defender Oguchi Onyewu is back in Belgium. Attackers Landon Donovan and Brian Ching returned to their MLS clubs.
Originally called for the T&T match were defender Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC), midfielder Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), midfielder Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids) and defender Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA). However, Mastroeni and Rogers were injured in their Sunday MLS matches and were replaced by Columbus Crew midfielder Brian Carroll and Chicago Fire forward Chris Rolfe.
One surprise was the retention of midfielder DaMarcus Beasley, who stood out, scoring the first two goals in the romp over Cuba. It might have been expected that Beasley would return to Glasgow Rangers, but coming back from serious knee surgery and a recent minor hip flexor, he'll continue to work his way back to full fitness in the U.S. camp and then return before Rangers' Saturday home match with Dundee United.
The starting lineup Wednesday might contain some surprises, but a good guess would have Brad Guzan in goal, Danny Califf, Frankie Hejduk, Michael Orozco and Heath Pearce in back, Freddy Adu, DaMarcus Beasley, Maurice Edu, Sacha Kljestan and Josť Francisco Torres in the midfield, with Jozy Altidore as the lone striker.
The Soca Warriors need to go all out, so the U.S., without many of its top players, might have to take a defensive stance to start, rather than push forward from the outset, a strategy utilized in the 3-0 decision over T&T with a full lineup last month in Bridgeview, Ill.
The U.S. and Costa Rica have already clinched spots in the hexagonal final round next year. Canada, a 3-1 loser at Honduras, and Cuba were eliminated Saturday.
In Group A, Guatemala or Trinidad & Tobago are competing for the second spot. Both are 1-0-2, but Guatemala is up by three in goal differential, in case they tie. T&T has an easier remaining schedule, hosting the U.S. and Cuba, while Guatemala has to travel to Cuba and the U.S.
In Group B, Mexico and Honduras are both 3-1 with nine points and on the verge of qualifying, despite Mexico's shocking 1-0 loss at Jamaica Saturday. Jamaica (1-2-1, 4 points) must win both remaining outings, while Mexico or Honduras drops the remaining two to steal a berth. Canada (0-3-1, 1) trails the pack.
In Group C, Costa Rica is through at 4-0 with 12 points, while El Salvador (2-1-1, 7) needs one win to claim the second berth. Haiti (0-2-2, 2) is barely hanging on and Suriname (0-3-1, 1) is eliminated.
U.S. roster for Wednesday match at Trinidad & Tobago
Goalkeepers (2): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, England), Troy Perkins (Valerenga IF, Norway).
Defenders (6): Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA, Major League Soccer), Danny Califf (FC Midtjylland, Denmark), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus Crew, MLS), Michael Orozco (San Luis, Mexico), Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock, Germany), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC, MLS).
Midfielders (7): Freddy Adu (AS Monaco, France), DaMarcus Beasley (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), Brian Carroll (Columbus Crew, MLS), Maurice Edu (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA, MLS), Danny Szetela (Brescia Calcio, Italy) Josť Francisco Torres (Pachuca, Mexico).
Forwards (3): Jozy Altidore (Villarreal CF, Spain), Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF, Sweden), Chris Rolfe (Chicago Fire, MLS).
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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