U.S. defender Fabian Johnson celebrates a 1-0 victory over Jamaica with… ( Jamie Sabau / Getty Images )
The U.S. soccer team, which found out Tuesday it would not have Landon Donovan in uniform for a pair of crucial World Cup qualifers, learned Wednesday that two other players would miss Friday's match with Antigua & Barbuda after Edgar Castillo was ruled out with a foot injury and Fabian Johnson was sidelined for at least a match with flu.
With two matches left in this round of qualifying, the U.S., Jamaica and Guatemala each have seven points in group play. But only the top two finishers advance to the final round of regional qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, meaning the U.S. needs at least a win and a draw from its matches with Antigua and its Oct. 16 game with Guatemala to assure it won’t miss the tournament for the first time since 1986.
The latest medical news leaves the U.S. with just 20 players -- three of them goalkeepers -- in camp. The team, which leaves for Antigua on Thursday, can suit up as many as 18 for each match but so far Coach Juergen Klinsmann has elected not to call up any replacements.
Castillo, who plays for Mexico's Club Tijuana, has seen limited action with the U.S. national team, appearing in just four of 11 games this season, starting twice. Johnson, who plays for Hoffenheim of the German Bundesliga, has started seven times and played more minutes than all but one U.S. defender.
"Obviously it is a difficult situation losing Fabian for the Antigua game," Klinsmann said. "At this point it is in everyone's best interest to allow him to fully recover from his illness."
Johnson is expected to rejoin the team over the weekend in Kansas City, Kansas, ahead of next week's match with Guatemala.
On Tuesday the U.S. medical staff ruled FC Dallas midfielder Brek Shea out with an abdominal strain and sent Donovan back to Los Angeles after examining the left knee he injured in the Galaxy's match Saturday at the Home Depot Center.
Donovan, the leading scorer in national team history, underwent further tests Wednesday but a Galaxy spokesman said results of those tests won't be available until Thursday at the earliest.
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