CHICAGO — Jozy Altidore, DeAndre Yedlin and Geoff Cameron returned from injuries and are on the U.S. roster for crucial World Cup qualifiers against Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago.
With the Americans in danger of missing soccer’s top event for the first time since 1986, U.S. coach Bruce Arena dropped Fabian Johnson because of a lack of fitness.
Arena brought in defender Michael Orozco and midfielders Benny Feilhaber and Juan Agudelo for Friday’s game against Panama at Orlando, Florida, and the qualifying finale four days later at Trinidad.
Seeking its eighth straight World Cup berth, the Americans are fourth in the North and Central American and Caribbean region with 10 points, one behind Panama and ahead of Honduras on goal difference. Mexico leads with 18 points and has clinched, Costa Rica has 15 and is close to a berth, and Trinidad has three and is close to elimination.
The top three nations qualify for next year’s tournament in Russia, and the fourth-place finisher meets Australia or Syria next month in a home-and-home playoff for a berth.
“It comes down to where we need four or six points in our last two games,” Arena said. “I think that’s fine and we’ll get it done.”
This will be the first time the U.S. plays its final qualifier with a berth uncertain since 1989, when Paul Caligiuri’s goal in a 1-0 win at Trinidad put the Americans in the World Cup for the first time since 1950.
After missing three matches with what his team called lower body tightness, Altidore played the entire game for Toronto on Saturday night in a 4-2 win over the New York Red Bulls.
Yedlin injured a hamstring during Newcastle’s preseason match against Mainz on July 29 and did not play again until Sept. 16.
Cameron played a full match for Stoke in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Southampton, his first action since injuring a hamstring against Manchester United on Sept. 9.
Johnson has played 118 minutes this season for Germany’s Borussia Moenchengladbach and was ineffective in last month’s qualifier against Costa Rica, a 2-0 home loss that increased pressure on the Americans.
Forward Jordan Morris (hamstring) and defender John Brooks (torn thigh muscle) will miss the match with injuries.
“In 2017 we’ve had one blip in the Costa Rica game,” Arena said. “All the other results went along as we expected, and maybe even an extra point in Mexico.”
Concerned over depth with nine of the 26 players carrying yellow cards, Arena is bringing in nine defenders and 10 midfielders.