Forward Bobby Wood (#7) has six goals in 24 all-time games for the USA. (Photo: Mexsport)
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent & the Grenadines -- When the United States meets St. Vincent & the Grenadines in a FIFA World Cup qualifier Friday, it will do so without several key players.
The Americans will be missing striker Clint Dempsey -- their Copa America Centenario scoring hero -- who is out with an irregular heartbeat; captain and midfielder Michael Bradley, who is serving a yellow-card suspension; center back John Brooks, sidelined with back issues; and midfielder-defender Jermaine Jones, who hasn't played in two months because of a knee injury.
Dempsey, the team's all-time qualifying goal-scorer with 14 goals, has tallied 52 times in 130 career international appearances.
"Would we need him down in St. Vincent & the Grenadines and against Trinidad & Tobago in the second game?" U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann asked. "Absolutely."
When several doors close many others open, especially up front.
Jozy Altidore missed June’s Copa with hamstring issues but has scored five goals in his last five appearances for Toronto FC. Bobby Wood scored Saturday in his Bundesliga debut for Hamburg. Other attacking options include Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Ruben Rubio (Utrecht/Netherlands) and veteran Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes).
"What makes us optimistic going into these qualifiers is watching our strikers scoring goals," said Klinsmann. "We know our strikers are hungry for goals, and hopefully, they can start with that right away in St. Vincent.”
Group C leader Trinidad & Tobago (3W-1D-0L, 10 points) and the U.S. (2-1-1, 7) can clinch CONCACAF hexagonal spots with wins over Guatemala (2-0-2, 6) and SVG (0-0-4, 0), respectively.
“Our message for players is very clear: approach it with a lot of urgencies " Klinsmann finished. "It’s not easy to go into those Caribbean countries and get the results, so it’s not going to be easy in St. Vincent on a very difficult field with heat to get the goals as quickly as possible. We’ve got to be patient, but we have to play with urgency and determination."