Arena, who replaced Jurgen Klinsmann as the U.S. manager in November, called up 32 players from 15 different MLS clubs for U.S. Soccer’s annual January training camp that begins next week in Carson, California.
The camp falls outside of a FIFA international window, meaning clubs in Europe and Mexico did not have to release their players. Last year, Jerome Kiesewetter — then with German club Stuttgart — was the only player from outside MLS to attend Klinsmann’s final camp.
Arena said he was looking to find players who can help the U.S. recover from its poor start to the final round of World Cup qualifying when the “hex” resumes in March.
“The last couple of games in qualifying didn’t go well, so we’re looking for some players that are eager to get on the field and make some contributions,” he said in a Facebook chat.. “I believe our team, when you look at the entire pool, not only in Major League Soccer but abroad as well, we have enough talent to win games.
“We can score goals. Defensively, we can be strong. Our goalkeeping is solid. Our back line can play a lot better than they have, and I think our top 4-5 players in attack are talented players and depending on who we utilize, we have speed and we have players that have proven they have the ability to score goals at the international level.”
Four players — DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley, Chad Marshall and Nick Rimando — are still around from Arena’s last tenure with the national team, which ended after the 2006 World Cup.
Marshall and Sacha Kljestan have not taken part in a January camp since 2010, while Dax McCarty was called in for the first time since 2011. In all, 13 players return from Klinsmann’s 23-man camp a year ago.
“I thought Chad Marshall had a great year in Seattle and I’m really looking forward to seeing him in camp,” Arena said.
Arena gave a first call-up to Sebastian Lletget, his former midfielder in his previous job as LA Galaxy coach, while other uncapped players in the team include defenders Taylor Kemp, Keegan Rosenberry and Walker Zimmerman, and midfielder Chris Pontius.
Kekuta Manneh and Stefan Frei were included, though they are still in the process of completing their eligibility requirements to play in games.
“Thirty-two is a big number, for sure,” Arena said. “Typically in camps you’ll be in the 20s, probably close to 25. But as we evaluated the players in Major League Soccer I thought there were a number of players that needed to be rewarded for the seasons they had, and that’s why we’ve invited this large number into camp. At the same time, I realized that we left some players at home. It’s been a difficult task.”
Following camp, the squad will face Serbia in a friendly on Jan. 29 in San Diego (ESPN2) before facing Jamaica in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Feb. 3.
The full U.S. squad:
Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Unattached), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Greg Garza (Atlanta United), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Taylor Kemp (D.C. United), Chad Marshall (Seattle Sounders), Keegan Rosenberry (Philadelphia Union), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Jermaine Jones (Unattached), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Kekuta Manneh (Vancouver Whitecaps), Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)
USA World Cup Hexagonal Schedule:
March 24, 2017: USA vs. Honduras
March 28, 2017: Panama vs. USA
June 7 or 8, 2017: USA vs. Trinidad and Tobago
June 11 or 12, 2017: Mexico vs. USA
Sept. 1, 2017: USA vs. Costa Rica
Sept. 5, 2017: Honduras vs. USA
Oct. 6, 2017: USA vs. Panama
Oct. 10, 2017: Trinidad and Tobago vs. USA