Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez acknowledges the crowd during a celebration… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)
Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez was among 24 players put on the U.S. soccer team's roster Monday before the final World Cup qualifier round, which begins Wednesday in Honduras.
The U.S. team trained in Miami on Monday morning before flying to San Pedro Sula for its first game in the six-team, 10-match Hexagonal stage of qualifying for Brazil 2014. The U.S. must finish in the top three in the stage -- which also includes Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Panama -- to guarantee itself a place in Brazil.
Gonzalez is one of seven Major League Soccer players put on the roster by U.S. Coach Juergen Klinsmann, making this team slightly less international than previous versions. Among the other MLS veterans was midfielder Brad Davis of the Houston Dynamo, who played well last week in a scoreless draw with Canada in his first international cap since 2010.
The quick turnaround between last week's league matches in Europe and Wednesday's qualifier one ocean and several time zones away may have influenced the composition of the U.S. roster.
"The challenge definitely for us [with] a huge amount of European players in our roster is traveling," Klinsmann said. "Also the lack of time in order to prepare them properly and meetings and stuff like that. To get the tiredness out of their legs and get them up to speed also mentally and be really well-prepared.
"Those are challenges. But other teams have those challenges too. We're not the only ones. And we accept those."
But if Klinsmann's roster has some surprises there are several unsurprising choices as well, including forward Clint Dempsey, who plays for Tottenham of the English Premier League; keeper Tim Howard of Everton in the EPL; midfielder Michael Bradley of Italy's Roma; and defender Edgar Castillo of Mexican League champion Tijuana.
The team is missing some familiar names. Galaxy captain Landon Donovan, the leading scorer in U.S. soccer history, remains sidelined as he contemplates his future, both in MLS and with the national team.
Also out is defender Steve Cherundolo, who is injured, while those passed over for selection include Chivas USA striker Juan Agudelo, who participated in Klinsmann's winter training camp, and Tijuana midfielder Joe Corona, who many considered a lock for this team.
"We feel good about going into Honduras and getting a positive result," Klinsmann said. "We're ready to go into a very difficult environment in Honduras. We feel good about all what we've done. But now we have to confirm things in Honduras.
"There's a kind of positive atmosphere around the club."
The U.S. team (club affiliations in parentheses):
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton) and Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)
DEFENDERS (9): Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Carlos Bocanegra (Racing Santander), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Timmy Chandler (Nuremberg), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Omar Gonzalez (L.A. Galaxy), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim) and Michael Parkhurst (Augsburg)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Michael Bradley (Roma), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Maurice Edu (Bursaspor), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Jose Torres (Tigres), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), and Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Clint Dempsey (Tottenham Hotspur), Herculez Gomez (Santos) and Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders)
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