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U.S. Hot List: Jozy Altidore in best form of his career, Julian Green cools down

 

There are several ways to figure out what Jurgen Klinsmann is thinking at any given time when it comes to the state of the national team player pool. The most telling is watching who the coach does (and does not) call in for games and how he uses players during international breaks. Actions speak louder than words, of course.

But occasionally, the coach speaks and offers genuine insight into how he views his various options.

That was the case on Monday afternoon, when Klinsmann conducted a live Facebook chat with U.S. fans. As is often the case, the supporters' questions tended to concern individual players. "Here and there you can ask about different topics as well," Klinsmann joked, but the answers to those others offered real clues about how the Americans will approach October's exhibitions at Cuba and against New Zealand in Washington, D.C. -- the last tune-up games before the final round of World Cup qualifying begins with a visit from archrival Mexico.

"Going forward we're trying to still integrate more talent into our pool, still see what youngsters are coming through to challenge the older ones," Klinsmann said. "We have two friendlies coming up, big friendlies for us. It gives us a last opportunity to test things out before we hit Mexico on Nov. 11."

Based on his comments and their play with their clubs, here are 11 guys who may or may not be in the mix.

Warming up

Jozy Altidore, F, Toronto FC (MLS)

Why he's here: With nine goals in his last 10 games for club and country, the 26-year-old is quite simply in the best form of his career right now.

What this means: "Jozy, if he is healthy, if he is fit, if he has confidence, he's a difference-maker," Klinsmann said, adding that he's confident that the hamstring injuries that have plagued Altidore in recent years are a thing of the past. "He still so young. Hopefully he stays healthy. We need him in top shape."

Paul Arriola, M/F, Club Tijuana (Mexico)

Why he's here: Arriola scored off the bench in last week's 4-0 rout of Trinidad and Tobago in Jacksonville, Florida, giving the 21-year-old San Diego-area product two goals in two U.S. games.

What this means: Arriola still has to establish himself with Xolos -- he's been used exclusively as a substitute this season after winning a starting job last spring -- but he clearly impressed with the U.S., and not just during the game. "Arriola stuck out for me in training all week," teammate Sacha Kljestan said in Florida. "He works his butt off."

Paul Arriola has featured as a substitute on seven occasions for Club Tijuana in the 2016 Apertura.

Steve Birnbaum, D, D.C. United (MLS)

Why he's here: Birnbaum started and played well against the Soca Warriors, then returned to United and scored a huge goal in Sunday's 2-2 tie against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena.

What this means: The Americans' depth at center-back could make it hard for Birnbaum to keep his place when Matt Besler and John Brooks are available (both missed the T&T game), but Birnbaum remains ahead of Liga MX-based Omar Gonzalez on the U.S. depth chart.

Aron Johannsson, F, Werder Bremen (Germany)

Why he's here: The Icelandic-American missed almost a year with a hip injury, but he has started both of Bremen's first two games of the Bundesliga season and scored from the spot on Sunday in Bremen's 2-1 loss to Augsburg.

What this means: Johannsson is just a couple of matches into the new campaign, and it sounds like Klinsmann has an eye on the striker not for next month, but for the Hex itself. "He's not at 90 minutes (fit) yet," Klinsmann said of the 25-year-old. "We need to be patient with Aron for a little bit. Hopefully soon we have him back. If that will be already the games against Cuba and New Zealand, that's questionable."

Lynden Gooch, M, Sunderland (England)

Why he's here: Gooch is still looking for his first senior cap, but he started Sunderland's first three games of the Premier League season and he was right back in David Moyes' XI following the international break, going 56 minutes in Monday's 3-0 loss to Everton.

What this means: The 20-year-old will be in the coach's plans if he keeps playing. Klinsmann called the Californian recently. "He just said well done for what I achieved and just told me to keep working hard and make sure I stay in the team," Gooch told Men in Blazers.

Jozy Altidore has six goals in his last eight games and continues to help push Toronto FC towards their second straight playoff berth. Check out some of his recent tallies in MLS.

Sacha Kljestan, M, New York Red Bulls (MLS)

Why he's here: With two goals and two assists in two games for the U.S. following his surprise recall, the MLS assists leader sealed his spot in next month's camp.

What this means: "He matured," Klinsmann said of Kljestan, who went more than two years between international invites. "Sacha definitely took his chance in these two World Cup Qualifiers and made a strong case. I told him see you back in October."

Timmy Chandler, D, Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany)

Why he's here: The German-American made the Copa America Centenario roster in June before having to withdraw through injury, and he has started his hometown team's first two games of the season at right-back.

What this means: Some U.S. fans love to hate on the 26-year-old. But Chandler's pedigree, age and -- most crucially -- his position will keep him in the mix. "Where we're lacking is definitely full-backs, left-backs and right-backs that are natural in that position," Klinsmann said. "He's another player that we're looking at."

Cooling down

Julian Green, F, Bayern Munich (Germany)

Why he's here: The 21-year-old dressed but was an unused substitute in both of Bayern's first two Bundesliga games.

What this means: It's hard to see Klinsmann calling Green in next month if nothing changes. Answering a question about Green and Arsenal prospect Gedion Zelalem, the coach said this: "They are not seeing any minutes with their club teams, so it's really difficult to bring them into the senior environment right now."

Bayern Munich forward Julian Green
Julian Green has not seen playing time for Carlo Ancelotti's side so far in the Bundesliga.

Clint Dempsey, F, Seattle Sounders (MLS)

Why he's here: The national team's second career leading scorer remains sidelined indefinitely because of an irregular heartbeat.

What this means: Three weeks since news about Dempsey's condition first broke, there has been no update about his potential return. "I'm in touch with Clint," Klinsmann said. "I can only say from our end that we hope to have him back as soon as possible."

Brad Guzan, G, Middlesbrough (England)

Why he's here: He started two league games for Boro while ex-Barcelona and Manchester United keeper Victor Valdes was injured and played well. But with Valdes back, Guzan returned to coach Aitor Karanka's bench for Saturday's 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace.

What this means: With U.S. teammate Tim Howard playing every week for the Colorado Rapids, Guzan might need to oust Valdes over the next eight weeks to earn the start against El Tri.

Gyasi Zardes, M/F, LA Galaxy (MLS)

Why he's here: The hard-running and versatile attacker is out until November with a broken foot, and others -- including a certain touted teenager -- are gunning for his spot in the lineup.

What this means: "It's a bummer for Gyasi because over the last two years he's been big for us," Klinsmann said. "We'd love to have more alternatives in midfield on the wing, especially with Zardes out for a little bit. With Christian Pulisic, I think we found a kid that gives us a huge option now."

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

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