USMNT Hot List: Bradley sharp and Cherundolo starts

Posted by Doug McIntyre

Christmas came early for U.S. national team fans over the weekend, as Steve Cherundolo made his first Bundesliga start in seven months and Michael Bradley notched his third start in four games for Italian club AS Roma.

Here's who else is running hot (and cold) this week.

Warming up

Michael Bradley, M, Roma (Italy)

Why he's here: The extra minutes have helped Bradley find a rhythm; his sharp performance in Sunday's 4-0 win over Catania was among his best this season.

What this means: Yes, the 26-year-old will be a central figure for the U.S. if healthy. Still, having an in-form, match-fit Bradley heading toward the World Cup would significantly improve the Yanks' chances of advancing past the group stage next summer.

Steve Cherundolo, RB, Hannover (Germany)

Why he's here: The veteran made his first start this season and looked solid. There were no signs of the knee troubles that had sidelined him since the final match of the Bundesliga 2012-13 season, and Cherundolo should continue to build fitness during Germany's winter break.

What this means: If Cherundolo hits the ground running when play resumes next month, not only will he challenge for a place on coach Jurgen Klinsmann's World Cup roster, but also for a spot on the field. In a funny way, missing the first half of the season could help the vet -- who turns 35 in February -- stay fresh for the tournament.

Aron Johannsson, F, AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands)

Why he's here: After going five games without a goal, the 23-year-old exploded for three in two games last week, including this pretty strike against Heerenveen on Saturday.

What this means: Johannsson's recent scoring flurry keeps him firmly in front of fellow youngster Terrence Boyd -- who has found the net consistently for Rapid Vienna this season -- on the U.S. depth chart.

Cooling down

Jozy Altidore, F, Sunderland (England)

Why he's here: After a string of good games -- two of them against powerful Chelsea -- Altidore struggled to make an impact in last-place Sunderland's drab scoreless draw at home to Norwich.

What this means: Coach Gus Poyet has started Altidore in five straight matches, but with the Black Cats still hemorrhaging points -- and Sunderland fans losing patience with the American -- don't be shocked if the 24-year-old is second choice to Scottish striker Steven Fletcher for trips to Everton (Thursday) and Cardiff City (Saturday).

Maurice Edu, M, Stoke City (England)

Why he's here: He's been healthy for weeks (Edu even trained with the Yanks in Scotland last month) but so far unable to make coach Mark Hughes' bench -- let alone his lineup -- despite Stoke's jam-packed December slate.

What this means: For Edu -- who played at 2010 World Cup and started a qualifier for the U.S. as recently as March -- to maintain any hope of accompanying the Americans to Brazil, he has to use next month's transfer window to move to a club willing to offer regular playing time.

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