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Apr 13, 2014

U.S. Hot List: Mixed bag for key internationals

ESPN FC's Taylor Twellman gives his USMNT hot and cold update on players including Clint Dempsey.


It's safe to say that Saturday was full of mixed emotions for Jurgen Klinsmann. The U.S. coach was in attendance for an evening match between the Galaxy and Vancouver Whitecaps at StubHub Center just outside of Los Angeles, where he watched World Cup roster locks Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez continue to search for their best form despite the home team's 1-0 win. Klinsmann would have been much happier just two hours earlier when U.S. captain Clint Dempsey put his own slump even further in the rearview mirror with his finest performance -- which included a late game winner for Seattle in a 3-2 win at FC Dallas -- since leaving England's Tottenham Hotspur and returning to MLS last summer. - Report: Dempsey scores twice in Seattle comeback win
- Labidou: Bedoya's Brazilian dreams
How Klinsmann's key players are performing week-in and week-out is of paramount importance these days. Next month's pre-Cup training camp is to open May 14, exactly one month from Monday, at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. And although the final cuts aren't due until June 2, it doesn't mean Klinsmann isn't living and dying with his players' displays at club level. So as thrilled as the German is with Dempsey's recent resurgence, he must also be concerned that Donovan and Gonzalez are both playing below their considerable abilities right now. It's not that either man has shown poorly with the Galaxy, although Gonzalez was lucky to avoid an embarrassing own goal in the first half Saturday night. It's more that the pair has lacked the razor sharpness they'll need to be effective contributors for the Yanks this summer in Brazil. Time is running out. L.A. plays just three more games before camp begins, starting with Saturday's rematch with the Whitecaps north of the border. You can bet Klinsmann will be watching, and that he'll be hoping what he sees from Donovan and Gonzalez is more to his liking next time. Warming up Clint Dempsey, F, Seattle Sounders (MLS) Why he's here: Dempsey scored twice in Dallas a week after notching a hat trick against the rival Portland Timbers, giving him six goals in four games (three starts) this season. What this means: Deuce's brace -- which included a stunning first-half free kick -- was part of an even more complete performance than his breakout game in Portland. The U.S. captain was everywhere versus FCD: Dempsey's low cross set up Seattle's other goal in the 3-2 win, and he came close to adding another with a thunderous 30-yard half-volley that shook the crossbar early in the second half. Maurice Edu, M, Philadelphia Union (MLS) Why he’s here: Edu, who has played every minute of Philly’s six games this season, salvaged a point for the Union against visiting Real Salt Lake with a perfect late header -- his second goal in as many matches. What this means: Edu is still behind Kyle Beckerman -- who scored for RSL -- on Klinsmann’s central midfield depth chart. But he’s making a strong case for inclusion on the U.S. World Cup roster, and could be closing in on Mix Diskerud thanks to his recent offensive tear. Kyle Beckerman, M, Real Salt Lake (MLS) Why he’s here: The goal against Philadelphia was his second in five games, but defensive consistency is why Klinsmann continues to hold the veteran in such high esteem. The 31-year-old has been a rock once again in 2014, keeping RSL undefeated through six matches this season. What this means: Beckerman is staking a claim to significant situational playing time in Brazil -- especially after the holding midfielder’s simple, disciplined game allowed Michael Bradley to adopt a more attacking role against Mexico earlier this month. Chris Wondolowski, F, San Jose Earthquakes (MLS) Why he’s here: In his first outing for the Quakes since scoring for the U.S. against Mexico on April 2, Wondolowski found the net yet again -- his third strike in four MLS games this season. What this means: It will be hard to keep the 31-year-old off the World Cup roster if he keeps up his current pace -- especially with D.C. United forward Eddie Johnson still looking for his first goal five games into the 2014 season. Cooling down John Brooks, D, Hertha Berlin (Germany) Why he’s here: A week after being pulled in the second half of Hertha’s Bundesliga match against Hoffenheim, Brooks was not included in manager Jos Luhukay’s 18 for Sunday’s tilt at Bayer Leverkusen. What this means: The 21-year-old center back is still on Klinsmann’s radar despite a tough outing against Ukraine last month; U.S. assistant coach Andi Herzog had planned to watch him play against Leverkusen. The trip was canceled when Herzog got word that Brooks wouldn’t dress. Brooks’ fading World Cup hopes could be scrapped next. Landon Donovan, M, LA Galaxy (MLS) Why he’s here: Donovan has been ever-present through the Galaxy’s first four games, but he’s still looking for career goal 135, which would put him atop the MLS record books. On Saturday, he headed his best chance over the crossbar from close range. What this means: As Klinsmann’s benching of Donovan against Mexico reminded us, the Yanks’ all-time top scorer won’t start unless he’s at his best. He’s got more than two months to find his game before the Americans’ June 16 World Cup opener, but right now Donovan isn’t there. Omar Gonzalez, D, LA Galaxy (MLS) Why he’s here: It’s hard to fault a defender whose team has kept consecutive clean sheets, but Gonzalez is still having concentration issues, as his near own goal showed. What this means: As with Donovan, Gonzalez needs to be at his best in mid-June, not mid-April. But his uneven form is a serious concern.

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