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The most powerful American in world soccer

ESPN FC & Howler
Read

Five Aside: Pulisic's super stats at age 19

Five Aside
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U.S. in must-not-lose World Cup qualifier

Five Aside
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 By Arch Bell

Dempsey, Morrow push for starting spots vs. Costa Rica; Brooks injured

Clint Dempsey played hero for Seattle, with his headed goal the sole difference against Sporting Kansas City.
After a scoreless first-half, TFC exploded in the second-half against Portland, with Justin Morrow netting a brace.
Mark Donaldson and Herculez Gomez evaluate what to expect from three notable Americans as the Premier League season begins.

World Cup qualifying resumes in just over two weeks, so there are not many chances left to impress United States head coach Bruce Arena ahead of the critical clash against Costa Rica on Sept. 1.

Heating up

Clint Dempsey, FW, Seattle Sounders (MLS)

Why he's here: Dempsey's goal in Seattle's 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City was his sixth in five games with the Sounders, giving him 50 goals with the team.

What this means: After being used as a super sub during the Gold Cup, Arena has to decide whether Dempsey starts against the Ticos. The Texan has scored in each of his last four official matches against Costa Rica, and combined with his current form it would stand to reason that Arena moves Dempsey into a starting role for the upcoming qualifier.

Tim Ream, DF, Fulham (EFL Championship)

Why he's here: Ream began the 2017-18 season in England on the right foot, with another excellent outing in the Cottagers' 1-1 draw at Reading, earning EFL Team of the Week honors.

What this means: This has to be a relief for Arena to see Ream start the season so well, especially with fellow center-backs John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez sustaining injuries. At this rate, Ream is a pretty solid lock to start against Costa Rica.

Justin Morrow, DF, Toronto FC (MLS)

Why he's here: Morrow was one of the driving forces behind Toronto FC's sparkling second half in a 4-1 win over Portland, scoring a pair of goals.

What this means: Morrow is making the battle at left-back very interesting. Arena has preferred Jorge Villafana thus far, but Morrow's recent play and Villafana's lack of playing time at Santos Laguna (see below) will make for some healthy competition.

After a breakout Gold Cup, Justin Morrow has continued his fine form into MLS with Toronto.

Timothy Chandler, DF, Eintracht Frankfurt (Bundesliga)

Why he's here: Chandler put in a 90-minute shift and scored the opening goal in a 3-0 cup win over fourth-division TuS Erndtebruck in which Eintracht Frankfurt played with 10 men for the final 70 minutes.

What this means: Chandler's good start and DeAndre Yedlin's hamstring injury could well pave the way for the 27-year-old to get a call. Whether he starts is another matter. Chandler has struggled against CONCACAF opponents, so he may well find himself on the bench, watching Graham Zusi start against the Ticos.

Cooling off

John Brooks, DF, Wolfsburg (Bundesliga)

Why he's here: As mentioned above, just 37 minutes into his first competitive match with new club Wolfsburg, Brooks was forced off with a thigh injury.

What this means: With his status for the Bundesliga opener this weekend already in doubt, it might make more sense for Arena to let Brooks rest over the international break. With the season just a week old, this has to be frustrating for Brooks, who battled injuries last campaign as well.

Gyasi Zardes, FW, Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS)

Why he's here: Zardes' scoring struggles continued in Saturday's 2-0 loss to New York City FC, as he failed to convert a number of clear-cut chances.

What this means: Now goalless in 15 games this season, Zardes is out of sorts. He is a favorite of Arena's and played in the Gold Cup final as a substitute, but it is hard seeing Zardes getting a call from his former club coach. There are too many others in the forward pool -- Jozy Altidore, Bobby Wood, Dom Dwyer -- who are in better form right now.

Alexander Ring & Gyasi Zardes
Gyasi Zardes is goalless this season and has yet to fully find his way since last season's knee injury.

Julian Green, FW, Stuttgart (Bundesliga)

Why he's here: Green was named to the matchday 18 but did not play in Stuttgart's cup tie with Energie Cottbus, which Stuttgart won on penalties.

What this means: This is an inauspicious start to 2017-18 for Green. The former Bayern Munich man is already a long way from returning to the national team, and judging by his appearances off the bench during the summer friendlies, he is likely to remain in the role of substitute with the newly promoted side. He'll need to make the most of any minutes coming his way this fall.

Jorge Villafana, DF, Santos Laguna (Liga MX)

Why he's here: Villafana was unused substitute in Santos Laguna's 3-2 home loss to Veracruz.

What this means: Villafana has yet to play for Santos since returning from Gold Cup duty on Aug. 1. The left-back fell out of favor late last season and things look to have continued into the current Mexican Apertura. Still, Villafana played well at the Gold Cup and should retain his starting spot, but he should also be aware that the Justin Morrows and Greg Garzas of the world covet his place.

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

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