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Leg 1
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Do the U.S. and Mexico care about the Gold Cup anymore?

Gold Cup

U.S. Hot List: John Brooks dominating at Hertha, Brad Guzan on the outs

While MLS standouts like Jozy Altidore, Kellyn Acosta, Steve Birnbaum and Lee Nguyen used the national team's January/February camp to make their cases for major minutes at this summer's Copa America Centenario, the way the domestic league's calendar falls makes it likely that foreign-based Americans will be mostly used when World Cup qualifying resumes against Guatemala next month.

"The end of March comes early for MLS players," Klinsmann told last week. "Is the roster you'll see at the end of March the same one as Copa America? Probably not."

Keeping those words in mind, this latest Hot List includes 11 lineup candidates playing their club ball abroad. With the home-and-home series now less than six weeks away -- not to mention the U.S. U-23's two-leg Olympic qualifying playoff set for the same FIFA window -- here's who is helping (or hurting) their chances of being in the mix.

Warming up

Alejandro Bedoya, M, Nantes (France)

Why he's here: The 28-year-old notched an assist in Saturday's 2-1 win over Lorient, giving him four goals and a pair of assists in his last six games.

What this means: Based on current form, Bedoya is the best American player in the world, having eclipsed Borussia Monchengladbach's Fabian Johnson, who's own searing run has inevitably cooled. Simply put, no Yank anywhere is better right now than Bedoya.

John Brooks, D, Hertha Berlin (Germany)

Why he's here: Brooks, who turned 23 last month, has started 12 consecutive games for Hertha since regaining his lineup spot in October. He's been a beast, too, dominating defensively and finding chances when he ventures forward. Brooks also seems to have resolved the consistency issues that plagued him during his first two seasons in the Bundesliga.

What this means: If he's healthy, bank on Brooks starting at left center back for the U.S. over Sporting Kansas City's Matt Besler -- who'll be just three games into the new MLS season -- in the first leg in Guatemala City on Mar. 25.

John Brooks has been a steady presence in Hertha Berlin's starting XI since early November.
John Brooks has been a steady presence in Hertha Berlin's starting XI since early November.

Omar Gonzalez, D, Pachuca (Mexico)

Why he's here: The former Los Angeles Galaxy star has been nearly flawless in central defense for the Tuzos, starting all six games since his late-2015 arrival.

What this means: Stoke City's Geoff Cameron, who was Klinsmann's first-choice right center back at the end of 2015, remains sidelined with an ankle injury. Combined with Gonzalez's strong start in Liga MX, that could open the door for the 27-year-old to partner with Brooks next month.

Desevio Payne, D, Groningen (Netherlands)

Why he's here: Now recovered from the ankle injury that limited him in late 2015, the former U.S. U-20 has appeared at right back in five of Groningen's six Eredivisie games in 2016. He's started the last four, including Sunday's 2-1 loss to Ajax.

What this means: Payne, who doesn't turn 21 until late November, probably won't be a serious senior team candidate until later this cycle. But if his Dutch club releases him to the U.S. U-23s -- who missed him during last October's unsuccessful CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament -- it would be a huge coup for Andi Herzog, who could then deploy Acosta in his natural defensive midfield role.

Christian Pulisic, M, Borussia Dortmund (Germany)

Why he's here: Pulisic was less effective in Saturday's match against Hannover than in his two previous appearances off the Dortmund bench, but he's still getting real minutes for a top club in an elite league -- something unprecedented for a 17-year-old U.S. national team prospect.

What this means: If BVB coach Thomas Tuchel allows Pulisic to travel to Colombia with the U.S. U-23s for the first leg of next month's do-or-die home-and-and home, don't be surprised if he starts both games as part of the agreement. Of course, if Dortmund drags its heels, Klinsmann could just summon Pulisic to the senior squad instead.

DeAndre Yedlin, D/M Sunderland (England)

Why he's here: Sure, he was caught sleeping on Manchester United's goal, but Sunderland's 2-1 upset of the Red Devils was also Yedlin's best game yet for the Black Cats, with the 22-year-old dangerous and energetic throughout at right back.

What this means: The win should help Yedlin keep his spot in Sam Allardyce's lineup. A starting assignment for the U.S. could follow if he holds the job into next month, although the feeling is Klinsmann still prefers him in midfield.

Cooling down

Ventura Alvarado, D, Club America (Mexico)

Why he's here: Alvarado started Las Aguilas' first three games of 2016 but had a shocker against Pachua on Jan. 17 and hasn't dressed for coach Nacho Ambriz in the three matches since.

What this means: The Arizonan was also dropped by Ambriz last season; the chance to redeem himself came only after Mexican international defender Paul Aguilar got injured. So it's hard to see Alvarado, who has been playing with America's U-20 squad of late, getting another opportunity or playing with the U.S. until his situation changes.

Joe Corona, M, Dorados de Sinaloa (Mexico)

Why he's here: Since moving to Sinaloa, his second loan from Tijuana in as many seasons, Corona has found playing time scarce. He's been an unused substitute in three of the club's six games this year, including Saturday's 3-2 loss to Pumas.

What this means: Klinsmann has challenged Corona to get out of his comfort zone -- he lived with his parents in San Diego while with the Xolos -- but the 25-year-old hasn't been a consistent performer south of the border despite over 150 Liga MX appearances. Could an MLS move be in his future?

Brad Guzan, G, Aston Villa (England)

Why he's here: Guzan continues to languish on the bench for Villa, having sat out the last six games for the Premier League strugglers since losing his starting job to Mark Bunn.

What this means: The Illinois native still seems unlikely to be reinstated even after Bunn conceded six Liverpool goals in Sunday's embarrassing 6-0 home defeat. Still, Tim Howard's uncertain future at Everton could keep the 31-year-old Guzan in contention for the Americans open No. 1 role ahead of June's Copa America.

Brad Guzan's previous Premier League start for Aston Villa came back on Jan. 2 in a 3-1 loss to Sunderland.
Brad Guzan's previous Premier League start for Aston Villa came back on Jan. 2 in a 3-1 loss to Sunderland.

Timmy Chandler, D/M, Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany)

Why he's here: The German-American hasn't made Eintracht's bench in three weeks and last played in a league game more than two months ago.

What this means: Chandler fell out of favor with Klinsmann even before losing his day job and will remain off the radar until he's playing regularly again at club level. But with more than 120 Bundesliga appearances on his resume, don't write off the 25-year-old permanently yet.

Jermaine Jones, M, Unattached

Why he's here: The 34-year-old is still unemployed and will begin a six-game suspension the moment he finds a new club -- effectively ruling him out for next month's matches.

What this means: Despite his age, Jones can still contribute at the international level and will remain in Klinsmann's plans through at least this summer. Still, the coach made it clear that he won't play an unfit Jones, who will have gone seven weeks without a match if he's still unsigned, even if he's available against Guatemala.

ESPNFC's Tom Marshall contributed reporting from Mexico.

Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.


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