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Posted at 09:56 PM ET, 06/07/2012

U.S. national team news & notes: Fabian Johnson doubtful, Edgar Castillo injured

*Antigua and Barbuda is a little country with big dreams, one of dozens around the globe seeking an implausible World Cup berth. My profile of the Benna Boys, their English coach and words of support from Louis Farrakhan, is up on The Post’s Web site.

*Who will play left back for the Americans on Friday in Tampa? Fabian Johnson probably won’t be ready after straining a calf before the Canada friendly and Edgar Castillo, the second-choice left back, injured a hamstring Thursday night, Coach Juergen Klinsmann said.

“It will be difficult for tomorrow, but probably not,” he said of Johnson. “We don’t want to force it. Hopefully it’s working out against Guatemala” on Tuesday.

As for Castillo, “he took an injury at practice.”

So you have no left backs?

“We always have left backs. Anybody can play left back. [laughter] We had [assistant coach] Andy Herzog play left back [in practice]. We’ll figure it out. We’ll find solutions.”

Options: Carlos Bocanegra, who started all three friendlies at center back but has years of experience on the left side, and Michael Parkhurst, a versatile defender.

If Bocanegra ends up on the left, Klinsmann will have to choose between Oguchi Onyewu, Clarence Goodson and Geoff Cameron for the two center slots.

*Klinsmann said his players aren’t underestimating the low-profile opponent.

“When you play a World Cup qualifier, you can’t have a mind-set to underestimate anybody. If I see a player with a little bit of a wrong approach, he is going to be on the bench in five minutes. I told them that already. The players know these are the games that now matter. We need three points right away. They are looking forward to it. We’ve put a lot of work in the last three weeks.”

*Klinsmann expects Antigua to implement defensive tactics.

“We would love them to come out and play an open game, which I doubt that will be the case. I think they will have every 10 field players behind the ball. They will be very disciplined to close the gaps and close the spaces and make it as difficult as possible for us. The way we break them down is by playing fast and moving around and keep the tempo up – keep it high, high, high – until you open up some gaps and create something.”

*Heavy rain wiped out the training sessions at Raymond James Field on Thursday. Antigua players splashed on the wet turf for a few minutes before the weather chased them back to the locker room. The U.S. team, which had been promoting a practice open to the public after Antigua’s workout, had to move to the University of South Florida.

The RJS field was thick with pooling water during the storm. More rain Friday could present footing problems for both teams. The weather outlook for gametime: 80 degrees, 79 percent humidity, 50 percent chance of rain.

Although no football games have been played here since last winter, the field is not pristine. Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw performed last week, with the stage set up on the south side of the field.

*After a sluggish start, ticket sales have surpassed 20,000 – an admirable advance tally given the early stage of the qualifying cycle and the unglamorous opponent. Such matches have typically drawn 8,000 to 20,000.

*TV coverage begins at 7 p.m. on ESPN, Galavision and ESPN3.com. Kickoff is at 7:11.

By  |  09:56 PM ET, 06/07/2012

Tags:  U.S. national team, Antigua, Juergen Klinsmann, World Cup

 
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