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USMNT: 3 MLS stars who warrant being capped in the Gold Cup

2R4KKW5 Columbus Crew midfielder Aidan Morris, front left, and Nashville SC midfielder Alex Muyl, front center, battle for the ball as Crew midfielder Darlington Nagbe, right, watches during the first half of an MLS soccer match Sunday, May 28, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

The USMNT has a busy summer ahead playing in both the CONCACAF Nations League and the Gold Cup.

The roster for the CONCACAF Nations League is full of Europe-based players such as Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, and newly-eligible Folarin Balogun.

The Gold Cup roster is quite the opposite. It consists of 16 MLS-based players and is relatively short of international experience as only three of the 23-man roster boast over 30 caps — LAFC's Aaron Long and Seattle Sounders' duo Christian Roldan and Jordan Morris.

It appears to have been a conscious decision by the USMNT coaching staff to experiment and offer game time to these new players with games to come against Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, and one other nation yet to be determined. Of the 23, Cade Cowell (SJ Earthquakes), Julian Gressel (Vancouver Whitecaps), Aidan Morris (Columbus Crew), Gaga Slonina (Chelsea), Alan Soñora (Juarez), and Brandon Vázquez (FC Cincinnati) are all players who can become cap-tied.

Thursday night saw Arsenal's Folarin Balogun make his debut in USA's 3-0 win over Mexico to advance to the Nations League final. It came after a long wait to see whether he would opt to represent USA or England at international level.

For some of those named in the Gold Cup squad, there are nine days until they could replicate Balogun and earn their debuts when USA play Jamaica at Soldier Field, Chicago.

Here are three MLS stars whose performances for their clubs merit being capped.

Aidan Morris, Columbus Crew, midfielder

Aidan Morris sits atop the list after a great start in Columbus this year. He was recently called up to the Canadian national team for the Gold Cup but elected to represent the USMNT this summer.

Should the US not, Canada would remain a nation for who Morris is eligible and a possible long-term answer in midfield to veteran Atiba Hutchinson.

Morris has started every game for Columbus so far and has had some good production to show for it. The former USA Under-21 midfielder has scored three goals and created 18 chances, which rank third and 17th respectively at his position.

There are all-round qualities in Morris' abilities as he has five different grades which surpass the 75.0-mark. He has generated a passing grade of 87.8, shooting grade of 76.0, and tackling grade of 83.0, placing him in the top 10 for each of these facets.

As a passer, he has completed 118 line breaking passes which is good for the eighth-most amongst midfielders.

Player Club Ball carry grade Passing grade Tackling grade
Aidan Morris Columbus Crew 80.3 87.8 83.0
Hector Herrera FC Cincinnati 82.8 82.3 59.5
Joao Paulo Seattle Sounders 75.9 92.8 67.5
Keaton Parks NYCFC 80.4 85.4 66.1
Mateusz Klich DC United 65.8 84.3 64.4
Iile Sanchez LAFC 61.8 86.2 73.5
Riqui Puig LA Galaxy 81.6 88.5 69.6

Brandon Vázquez , FC Cincinnati

The FC Cincinnati star forward gets a chance to represent the stars and stripes again this summer, with a chance to make the push for a spot on the top roster.

Vázquez is coming off a fantastic 2022 season where he scored 18 goals and created 31 chances. He has had a slower start to the 2023 season, scoring four goals and creating nine chances.

Vázquez has had a slightly above average start to the season; generating an aerial grade of 66.7, a ball carry grade of 66.7, and a shooting grade of 77.1. All of these grades rank in the top 25 of all strikers in MLS.

He did lose his strike partner, Brenner, this season to a transfer to Serie A club Udinese, but Cincy remain top of the Supporters' Shield as Vázquez forms a new partnership with  Dominique Badji and awaits the arrival of Aaron Boupendza from Al-Shabab FC of the Saudi Professional League next month as a designated player.

Julian Gressel, Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Jullian Gressel has been a staple for the Whitecaps, starting 15 games and appearing in all 17 MLS games in 2023. Gressel is a big reason Vancouver finds themselves in a play-off spot around the midway point of the season, as he has scored three goals and generated 35 chances. The latter places him seventh among wingers and attacking midfielders.

Gressel has been brilliant while distributing the ball, producing a crossing grade of 89.0 (2nd/156) and a passing grade of 80.1 (12th/168). He has completed 30 crosses and has completed 72 line-breaking passes, third and fifth most among wingers/attacking midfielders respectfully.

Player Club Crossing grade Passing grade Shooting grade
Julian Gressel Vancouver Whitecaps 89.0 80.1 74.1
Luciano Acosta FC Cincinnati 78.3 67.4 82.2
Cristian Espinoza SJ Earthquakes 89.8 75.4 83.7
Jordan Morris Seattle Sounders 75.3 68.9 90.4
Lorenzo Insigne Toronto FC 80.5 80.2 78.0
Facundo Torres Orlando City 83.3 77.6 77.7

The grades and stats showed here that these players should get their chance this summer. Whether it be for depth at these positions or to push for a starting role in some way, these players should end be cap tied by the USMNT come end of summer.

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