Howard, Dempsey, Cameron return under Arena vs Honduras

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Bruce Arena made key changes in his first starting lineup since replacing Jurgen Klinsmann as U.S. national team coach, starting goalkeeper Tim Howard, defenders Geoff Cameron and Jorge Villafana and midfielder Clint Dempsey in Friday night’s critical World Cup qualifier against Honduras.

With the U.S. desperate for a win following an 0-2 start in the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region, Cameron and the 38-year-old Howard returned from injuries and the 34-year-old Dempsey from an irregular heartbeat. Several other regulars were hurt and suspended, forcing Arena to use a makeshift lineup.

Cameron was at right back rather than the central defensive role he usually plays with the U.S. and the midfield position he mans for Stoke. John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez remained in the centre of the back line, where they started in November’s 4-0 defeat at Costa Rica, which caused the U.S. Soccer Federation to fire Klinsmann and bring back Arena, the U.S. coach from 1998-2006. Villafana was on the left.

Captain Michael Bradley was in defensive midfield, with 18-year-old Christian Pulisic in central midfield, flanked by Sebastian Lletget on the right and Darlington Nagbe on the left. Dempsey and Jozy Altidore headed the attack.

Villafana and Lletget were making their World Cup qualifying debuts. After being marginalized by Klinsmann, Nagbe made his first qualifying appearance in a year.

Arena coached the U.S. to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals, the Americans’ best finish since the first tournament in 1930, then was fired after group-stage elimination in 2006. He was coach of Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy and was re-hired by the U.S. Soccer Federation in November after a 2-1 home defeat to Mexico and the rout at Costa Rica.