New kids stand out for the United States
In a sense, it's accurate to say that each of the 21 players on Jurgen Klinsmann's U.S. roster for Wednesday's friendly in the Czech Republic are warming up this week. That's especially true for three of the youngest players on the coach's list.
Emerson Hyndman and Rubio Rubin are both just 18, and both were in the lineup for their respective European clubs, Fulham and Utrecht, on Saturday, two days after they received their first national team invites.
Bobby Wood also started, and with Klinsmann watching from the stands, the 21-year-old 1860 Munich forward picked up an assist on Sunday in a German second-tier match against Heidenheim.
Hyndman, though, was easily the most impressive of the three. The central midfielder from Dallas went 90 minutes for the third time in five games this season in Fulham's 1-1 tie with Cardiff City, and again displayed skills and a soccer brain well beyond his years. Hyndman seems destined to earn his first senior cap in Prague, but because we introduced you to him (and five other fresh U.S. invitees) last week, he's not listed below.
With no shortage of Americans trending in a positive direction this week, it's time to take a look at some others. Things aren't rosy everywhere, though, especially in Toronto, where the situation is decidedly troubling for one of the country's top players.
John Brooks, D, Hertha Berlin (Germany)
Why he's here: The 21-year-old center back made his first start of the new Bundesliga season on Saturday against Champions League qualifiers Bayer Leverkusen.
What this means: Brooks was solid despite his team's 4-2 loss, and showed off a nastier edge -- something he lacked at times last year as a top-flight newbie. With veteran Sebastian Langkamp (ankle) out for a month, the German-American should get the opportunity to build on his 2014-15 debut.
Joe Corona, M, Club Tijuana (Mexico)
Why he's here: After losing his spot in the lineup last spring and being among the final cuts from Klinsmann's World Cup roster, Corona has regained his place with Tijuana this summer, starting six straight games.
What this means: Although Corona has earned a U.S. recall, he needs to start influencing Liga MX games more in the form of goals and assists. But first he has to continue playing regularly, which isn't guaranteed after the departure of manager Xolos Cesar Farias on Sunday.
Alfred Morales, M, Ingolstadt (Germany)
Why he's here: The tough-tackling midfielder has helped his 2. Bundesliga club get off to a fast start; four games in, Ingolstadt occupies one of two automatic promotion spots. Morales showed off some of his offensive capabilities this weekend, setting up two goals.
What this means: Still just 24, expect the versatile Morales to continue getting looks this cycle, especially with 32-year-old Jermaine Jones' long-term international future uncertain. Morales will be looking for his second U.S. cap this week in Prague.
Tim Ream, D, Bolton Wanderers (England)
Why he's here: Ream, who last week received his first national team invite since March, has played every minute of Bolton's seven matches so far.
What this means: Each of his eight U.S. appearances -- the last of which came in 2011 -- have come in central defense, but he's been playing left back for his club this season. As such, don't be shocked if Ream, a natural lefty, gets the nod over Timmy Chandler there against the Czechs.
Michael Bradley, M, Toronto FC (MLS)
Why he's here: It's not that he's been playing poorly, although it must be said that Bradley hasn't looked quite himself since before the World Cup. Rather, it's his dysfunctional club situation that has him trending down, as hapless TFC descends into its annual late-season meltdown.
What this means: Coach Ryan Nelsen is gone. Tim Leiweke, the man who brought Bradley and ex-England striker Jermain Defoe to Canada, is leaving, and Defoe could beat him to the door. For now, GM Tim Bezbatchenko insists that "Michael is on board." But you sure couldn't blame him for beginning to question the wisdom of staying in Toronto through Russia 2018.
Eric Lichaj, D, Nottingham Forest (England)
Why he's here: Lichaj, one of the few young, experienced left backs in the U.S. player pool, was left off Klinsmann's most recent roster despite appearing in each of Forest's five league games this season.
What this means: It appears that Lichaj, a fast, physical defender who maybe lacks the technical and passing ability Klinsmann covets in his fullbacks, just isn't in the coach's plans.
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.