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'Nations league' impact upon U.S., Mexico

CONCACAF
Read
 By Arch Bell

U.S. Hot List: Gonzalez, Miazga win trophies, Green struggling for time

Benny Feilhaber hits a sensational strike from outside the box to give Sporting Kansas City the lead over San Jose.
Major League Soccer: Juan Agudelo (54') Seattle Sounders 0-3 New England Revolution
Max and Herc preview crucial qualifiers for the U.S., break down the latest MLS action and chat with Benny Feilhaber.

It is hard to believe, but the United States national team is just weeks away from gearing up for a busy summer of international soccer, which includes a pair of CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers in early June and then the Gold Cup in July.

Here are the highlighted players, for better or worse, from the past week.

Heating up:

Juan Agudelo, FW, New England Revolution (MLS)

Why he's here: Agudelo was superb in a two-goal performance as the Revolution played to a 3-3 draw against the Seattle Sounders. But the goals only tell half the story. Agudelo also showed off his hold-up play, passing skills and improved defensive work.

What this means: It will be hard to break up U.S. coach Bruce Arena's preferred forward partnership of Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey, and there are other strikers, such as Bobby Wood, who will be in the mix, but Agudelo is certainly making a strong case. And if not the qualifiers, then one has to think the Gold Cup will be on the docket for the Revs forward.

Omar Gonzalez, DF, Pachuca (Liga MX)

Why he's here: It was quite the week for the former LA Galaxy defender. On Wednesday, Gonzalez started and went the full 90 minutes helping Pachuca clinch the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League with a 1-0 win over Tigres in the second leg. That was followed three days later by a solid 90-minute performance in a 2-2 draw against Cruz Azul.

What this means: While Gonzalez's performances in a U.S. jersey have not been up to the standard that he has maintained in Liga MX -- the 2-0 loss at Guatemala in March 2016 and last November's 4-0 defeat at Costa Rica are the most glaring examples -- Gonzalez is likely to play a key role for the Yanks in the June qualifiers. His Liga MX experience will be invaluable when the U.S. steps onto the Estadio Azteca turf on June 11 to face Mexico.

Omar Gonzalez added to his trophy case with a CCL medal, keeping Tigres' Andre-Pierre Gignac scoreless over two legs.

Matt Miazga, DF, Vitesse Arnhem (Eredivisie)

Why he's here: For the first time in its 125-year history, Dutch club Vitesse won a major trophy with a 2-0 win in the Dutch Cup final over AZ Alkmaar in which Miazga started and went the distance. The Chelsea loanee has appeared in 21 of Vitesse's 32 league matches this season.

What this means: Despite John Brooks' injury woes, Miazga likely won't feature in the June qualifiers since Arena has shown that he prefers other center-back options such as Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron and Tim Ream. But the Gold Cup would serve as a great way for Miazga to get some big-game national team experience.

Benny Feilhaber, MF, Sporting Kansas City (MLS)

Why he's here: Feilhaber is no stranger to the spectacular, and he put on another show last Saturday with a stunning strike from distance in Sporting Kansas City's 3-0 win over Real Salt Lake, his second goal of the young season.

What this means: Feilhaber has hit the ground running since returning from a hamstring injury on April 15, and any time he is on the field, Sporting Kansas City is a better team. More performances like last Saturday's will put the veteran midfielder in discussion for a roster spot for next month's qualifiers.

Cooling off:

Julian Green, MF, Stuttgart (2. Bundesliga)

Why he's here: The 21-year-old Green was once again an unused substitute in Stuttgart's 3-2 victory at Nurnberg. It was the fourth match in a row in which Green has failed to see any action, and he has played in just two matches since March 10.

What this means: While the lack of minutes at star-studded Bayern Munich was understandable and the failed loan to Hamburg two seasons ago could be attributed to a young player still trying to find his way, the hope was that Green, who turns 22 in June, would have had greater success thus far at Stuttgart. Now, Green's chances of a Gold Cup spot appear to be fading, but with the tournament scheduled for July, it may well behoove Green to instead focus on having a strong preseason with Stuttgart, who look set for a Bundesliga return in 2017-18.

Julian Green's move to Stuttgart was supposed to provide an opportunity for playing time, but that has been scarce of late.

Jorge Villafana, DF, Santos Laguna (Liga MX)

Why he's here: Perhaps it is harsh to include a player in the Cooling Off section that just made his seventh straight start and helped his team clinch a Liguilla spot, but it has to be said that Villafana struggled a lot in Saturday's 2-2 draw at Chiapas. He was unable to clear a ball that led to the first Chiapas goal and then fell while trying to defend on the second Chiapas score.

What this means: Villafana started the two March qualifiers back when he wasn't even getting any first-team minutes at Santos, so a mini-slump will likely not change Arena's opinion.

Jermaine Jones, MF, LA Galaxy (MLS)

Why he's here: Playing in a more advanced role, Jones was unable to help the Galaxy solve their attacking woes in a 0-0 draw versus the Philadelphia Union. Jones had the biggest miss of all when he popped a wide-open header well over the crossbar.

What this means: Arena is a big fan of Jones, evidenced by his most recent start in the qualifier against Panama, so Jones' early season struggles with the Galaxy won't likely damage his national team standing.

Alfredo Morales, MF, Ingolstadt (Bundesliga)

Why he's here: A sending off is never a way to earn favor, but that's what happened to Morales, who picked up two yellow cards in relegation-threatened Ingolstadt's 0-0 draw with RB Leipzig.

What this means: While Morales did feature for the U.S. in the 2015 Gold Cup, his chances of getting a call for the 2017 edition are slim at best.

Arch Bell covers CONCACAF for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @ArchBell .

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