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  • 11:12 AM ET  09.10
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Stuart Holden has looked lively off the bench in every game.
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The U.S. just went from third place on goal differential to alone in first in World Cup qualifying in the span of two games -- how much does the wild, wild frontier of the CONCACAF Hexagonal rock? Still, if you're feeling uneasy about the Americans' form these days, you're not alone. If they play like that in nine months, it's going to be a short World Cup. Back to the task at hand, here's a look at how the U.S. bubble players performed after the 1-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday:

Making their case to stick

Ricardo Clark. Let's not forget: We're talking about players who are making their case in Bob Bradley's eyes, not ours. The holding midfielder had a sub-par first half and a less forgettable second half. Yet his rocket in the 62nd minute was the difference-maker against T&T. And in Bradley's world, that's enough to stay a regular on the team (Clark has delivered similarly before). Funny, because I can't remember a single touch that stood out the rest of the game. He was on his way to being subbed before hitting that goal. To me, yes, Rico is still a bubble player. The sooner Maurice Edu gets healthy and the closer Jermaine Jones gets to making his U.S. debut, the more in jeopardy Clark's place is.

Stuart Holden. Does this kid want to play or what? That's three straight qualifiers in which the Houston Dynamo youngster has come off the bench and immediately injected the U.S. attack with life. It's also three straight games in which the midfielder has created legit scoring chances the Americans couldn't bury. The more Holden steps on the field, the more I want him in the picture. Too bad Landon Donovan couldn't convert that pretty cross from him Wednesday night. Holden's purposeful performance stood out even more when you consider who he replaced in the 82nd minute: seriously lackluster Clint Dempsey.

Eyeing a rally

Jonathan Bornstein. This might be simply because of how poorly he played against El Salvador. But Jonny B made a solid recovery in Port of Spain, making several key defensive plays and crucial tackles on a number of dangerous players, ranging from menacing winger Carlos Edwards to goal-hungry Cornell Glen. Was that good enough to keep him in the picture? Unclear. But it's a pretty safe bet Edgar Castillo will be in camp before the trip to Honduras next month.

Incomplete

Chad Marshall. After playing reasonably well against El Salvador, Marshall rode the pine in Trinidad with Oguchi Onyewu back in the lineup. Hard to know where the Columbus Crew stalwart fits until Bradley figures out whether he prefers Carlos Bocanegra in the middle or at left back.

On the verge of a crash

José Francisco Torres. Another match goes by where the 21-year-old Pachuca star can't get in the game. Take that for what it is.

Where are Jonathan Spector and Benny Feilhaber? At this point, I don't think they're bubble players -- they're on the roster in red ink. But you may disagree. You have the floor: Who impressed and who disappointed?

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