USMNT hot list: Club play put under microscope for hopefuls

Posted by Doug McIntyre

Now that the U.S. has booked its spot at the 2014 World Cup with two qualifiers left to spare, the conversation turns to which players will accompany the national team to Brazil.

Every four years, there are surprises.

-- Real test still to come for USMNT

In 2010, Edson Buddle, Robbie Findley and Herculez Gomez each made the 23-man squad despite not playing a minute for the Yanks the year before. Fellow forward Conor Casey, whose two goals in Honduras in qualifying secured that berth in South Africa, didn't even make the 30-name preliminary list.

This time around, things appear slightly more predictable. Even though Jurgen Klinsmann's player pool may be deeper than any previous U.S. coach's, Klinsmann has been fairly consistent in his invites and omissions. Don't expect that to change just because the Americans have secured their place for next summer.

"For our last two qualifiers against Jamaica and Panama, our approach is six points," Klinsmann told ussoccer.com on Monday. "We want to win these two games badly, and we're going to bring in the best players available and finish this qualifying campaign on the highest note possible."

Still, a lot can and will happen over the next eight months, and with just five games to play for the first string until World Cup rosters are due, club play will go a long way toward determining which Americans make the final cut. (The U.S. travels to Europe in November for two post-hexagonal friendlies -- starting with Scotland on Nov. 15 -- before a final tuneup March 5.) Who might make the roster and get on the field next month? Let's start with who's hot (and not) this week.

WARMING UP

DeAndre Yedlin, RB, Seattle Sounders (MLS)

Greg Bartram/USA TODAY SportsDeAndre Yedlin's ability to attack from the back could turn the Sounders right back into an asset for the U.S.

Why he's here: The Akron product, 20, continues to impress during his rookie season. His blazing run up the flank Friday helped set up MLS-leading Seattle's second goal against Real Salt Lake.

What this means: Right back remains wide-open for the U.S., with Fabian Johnson, Brad Evans, Michael Parkhurst and Steve Cherundolo among the challengers. Yedlin's ability to attack from the back could offer the Yanks a more dynamic look -- if he's ready to make the leap to the highest level. By May, he just might be.

Tim Howard, GK, Everton (England)

Why he's here: After shutting down Mexico in Columbus, the Yanks' No. 1 returned to Premier League play and promptly led the Toffees to three points against title contender Chelsea, making five saves in the 1-0 win.

What this means: Howard took heat after the Yanks' 3-1 loss in Costa Rica (and he nearly gifted the Blues an early goal Saturday), but he put any concerns about his status as the U.S. No. 1 to rest with two top-end performances this week. "I've had a lot of crappy games," Howard said after beating El Tri. "The reason I'm still playing is because they're very few and far between."

Terrence Boyd, F, Rapid Vienna (Austria)

Why he's here: Boyd made up for a first-half penalty miss by scoring his fourth league goal for Rapid (and his fifth in all competitions) this season.

What this means: The emergence of Dutch-based youngster Aron Johannsson has made competition for the final places up front fierce. (Johannsonn, a 22-year-old like Boyd, also found the net over the weekend.) But Boyd can only worry about himself. And as long as he keeps scoring in Austria, he'll put himself in position to be called upon in October and November, when he'll also be looking for his first international goal.

COOLING DOWN

Joe Corona, M-F, Club Tijuana (Mexico)
Why he's here: Corona was an unused substitute Sunday against Guadalajara, making it four straight games in which he hasn't left the Xolos' bench.

Frederick Breedon/Getty ImagesJoe Corona broke out during the summer's Gold Cup but has seen little action with Liga MX's Club Tijuana.

What this means: The hope was that Corona's breakout Gold Cup for the U.S. would help him hit the ground running in Tijuana this season. But he hasn't been able to establish himself under new coach Jorge Almiron and admits he could seek a winter transfer if things don't change. "If I see the situation staying the same, I'll probably look into that," Corona told the San Diego Union-Tribune last week. "Hopefully, I keep getting called up to the national team."

Maurice Edu, M, Stoke City (England)

Why he's here: The 2010 World Cup vet wasn't in Stoke's 18 Saturday against Manchester City and has yet to appear for the Potters this season.

What this means: The hope was that following summer knee surgery, Edu would either be back in the game-day mix with Stoke or loaned to another club by September. Neither happened. And with January now the earliest Edu can seek playing time elsewhere, should his prospects under coach Mark Hughes not improve, the 27-year-old is running out of time to make the U.S. team for Brazil.

NOTES

-- The big news concerning Americans abroad has to do with a coach, not a player. On Monday, Bob Bradley's Egypt was drawn against Ghana -- the team that eliminated the Bradley-coached U.S. from the 2010 World Cup -- in a home-and-home playoff for one of Africa's five berths in Brazil. The first leg of series will be played next month, with the winner-take-all finale set for November (exact dates and locations are still TBD).

-- U.S. defender John Brooks couldn't help Hertha Berlin beat Stuttgart on Friday, as his powerful header was stopped in the second half of the 1-0 loss. But Brooks' solid play didn't go unnoticed either; He was named to the Bundesliga team of the week Monday for the second time of the young season.

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