The United States heads into World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico with an injury-depleted and inexperienced defense after dropping captain Carlos Bocanegra.
Already without goalkeeper Tim Howard, the shaky U.S. back line got even weaker Monday when coach Jurgen Klinsmann said Timmy Chandler, Fabian Johnson and Danny Williams will miss the matches.
The 33-year-old Bocanegra has lost his starting job with Racing Santander, a Spanish second-division team on its fourth coach of the season. Bocanegra, on loan from Glasgow Rangers, and has not appeared in a game since Feb. 2.
Klinsmann said he's had several conversations with Bocanegra, who has been U.S. captain since 2007, and expects him to switch clubs at the end of the season.
"He's simply not playing. He's not getting any minutes ... so he has no flow. He has no rhythm, and he understands that situation," Klinsmann said. "Carlos is still in our picture. This is not the end of his national-team career, but he understands that he is right now behind other players."
With Bocanegra dropped after 110 international appearances and Howard recovering after breaking two bones in his back on Feb. 26, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones become the leading candidates to take over as captain. Klinsmann planned to announce his choice Tuesday.
The U.S., which lost 2-1 at Honduras last month in its opener of the 10-game last round, plays Costa Rica on Friday at Commerce City, Colorado, then is at Mexico City on March 26. The group also includes Panama and Jamaica. The top three teams qualify for next year's World Cup in Brazil, with the fourth-place finisher advancing to a playoff.
"Every home game ... is a must-win situation," Klinsmann said.
Among those missing from the 23-man squad are Edgar Castillo (triple facial fracture March 2), Chandler (injured hamstring Saturday), Steve Cherundolo (knee surgery Feb. 6), Johnson (sidelined by hip injury since March 3), Jonathan Spector (injured ankle Saturday), Jose Torres (injured hamstring Saturday) and Williams (stomach virus).
Brad Guzan takes over in goal in his first qualifying appearance since 2009. Omar Gonzalez and Geoff Cameron were shaky in central defense in the Honduras loss on Feb. 6, and the Americans have no experienced options.
"Definitely a challenge," Klinsmann said.
Just six defenders are in the squad, including, DaMarcus Beasley and Maurice Edu.
Beasley, a 30-year-old midfielder who is a veteran of three World Cups, rejoins the team for the first time since the friendly at Mexico last year.
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, England), Sean Johnson (Chicago), Nick Rimando (Salt Lake)
Defenders: Tony Beltran (Salt Lake), Matt Besler (Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke, England), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles), Clarence Goodson (Brondby, Denmark), Justin Morrow (San Jose)
Midfielders: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla, Mexico), Kyle Beckerman (Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Roma, Italy), Joe Corona (Tijuana, Mexico), Maurice Edu (Bursaspor, Turkey), Jermaine Jones (Schalke, Germany), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht, Belgium), Brek Shea (Stoke, England), Graham Zusi (Kansas City)
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna, Austria), Clint Dempsey (Tottenham, England), Herculez Gomez (Santos Laguna, Mexico), Eddie Johnson (Seattle)