U.S. national team news & notes

October 14, 2012

Former MLS star Carlos Ruiz, left, is the prime threat for Guatemala vs. USA in Tuesday’s qualifier. (Reuters)

Fabian Johnson, the U.S. national team’s first-choice left back who missed Friday’s World Cup qualifier Friday with the flu, wasn’t well enough to travel from Germany as planned and won’t play in the deciding match against Guatemala on Tuesday in Kansas City, Kan.

Juergen Klinsmann will not replace him on the roster, leaving the squad with 16 field players and three goalkeepers. Klinsmann did not have media availability after Sunday morning’s training session at Livestrong Sporting Park and wasn’t available to discuss the matter.

Johnson had been scheduled to join the team in Kansas City after recovering in Germany, where he plays for Bundesliga club Hoffenheim.

Five players initially named to the roster are not available: Johnson; Landon Donovan, Brek Shea and Edgar Castillo with injuries; and Jermaine Jones because of a yellow card suspension.

Without Johnson and Castillo on Friday, Klinsmann started Carlos Bocanegra at left back. Bocanegra is experienced on the left side and in the middle. He seems likely to start there again against Guatemala. Michael Parkhurst is also an option.

Jones has returned to Germany to prepare for the next Bundesliga match with Schalke next Saturday at Borussia Dortmund.

A victory or draw would ensure a berth in CONCACAF’s final round of qualifying next year. The Amercans could also advance with a loss, but they’d have to rely on Jamaica losing, tying or winning by a small margin against Antigua.

*Tim Howard, on facing Guatemalan forward/pest/theatrical genius Carlos Ruiz:

“I admire his tenacity. I’ve seen a lot of foreigners come and go [in MLS], pack their bathing suits and take a vacation. Carlos was one of those guys who really embraced the league, scrapped and fought, and was a big part of some good teams. He is a tough bugger. He really gets stuck in. He is one of those great forwards that is hungry, that is greedy. Even though he is not a monster in terms of size, he is a handful.

“He is a good competitor. I enjoy playing against him. We always speak off the field before the games, but on the field he is one of the tough ones.”

As for Ruiz’s infamous embellishment, “That’s part of the game, and he does it well. The best forwards in the world do it well. They bring attention to their individual battle and make the referee take notice.”

Howard hasn’t always been diplomatic about Ruiz. After a qualifier at Estadio Mateo Flores in August 2008, he said of him: “He’s dirty. I wish I could say otherwise. I’ve seen it [in MLS]. There is no place for it. It’s reckless. It’s there for everyone to see. I kind of expect it….That’s what he does. I think you would rather have him be a man out there and say, ‘Look, I don’t like you, I am going to kick you.’ You can almost respect it in a funny way. He has this way about him. He kicks, he punches, he’s an [expletive]. And he wants to come and be your friend [when he tried to apologize]. There is no place for it.”

*Michael Bradley, on the culmination of the semifinal round without yet securing passage: “You get to the end of this round and there is a real sense of: It’s time. It’s time to do whatever you have to do to make sure you put yourself in the next round. We have had to fight our way through different moments, through different games, but that is normal. That is what qualifying is all about. We wouldn’t have expected any different. We’re proud that we have stuck together and battled through difficult moments, and we’ve come away points. And now we’ve have put ourselves in position where a point here Tuesday night is going to put us into the next round.

“It seems so simple but it is just how it goes. At the end of the day, you get to the World Cup, no one remembers how you got there. There are twists, there are turns, there are ups and downs along the way, but the ability to have a hard mentality and get to the World Cup is all that matters.” 

 *Tuesday’s match is sold-out but the specific attendance figure hasn’t been revealed. Unlike MLS matches, organizers are not allowed to sell standing-room tickets for qualifiers. The stadium has about 18,500 permanent seats.

*TV coverage Tuesday on ESPN2 and Telefutura is at 7 p.m. ET (6 local), but kickoff won’t occur until 7:15 (6:15).

*Weather outlook: Sunny, breezy and 80 degrees during the day, 0 percent chance of rain.  

*Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi is back in town after playing in Antigua on Friday, but instead of heading to his apartment, he checked into a downtown hotel with his U.S. teammates. “It’s really strange. I live three minutes away. I can see my building from my [hotel] room.”

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.
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Steven Goff | October 12, 2012