5. Cody Cropper (MK Dons)
Perhaps it's a case of renewed confidence. Last week in Colombia, Cody Cropper came off the bench and made multiple big saves to help secure a tough 1-1 draw for the U.S. U23s in Olympic Qualifying.
On Saturday, Cropper was back in goal for Milton Keynes Dons at Craven Cottage to face Tim Ream and Fulham. He was heavily tested all day, making seven saves, several of the spectacular variety.
Fortunately, there's video to prove it. Whether it was a diving stab to tip one over the bar (1:32), a point blank stop inside the six (1:40), a reaction save on a blasted volley (2:43), or another heroic deflection just seconds later (2:56), Cropper did more than part to keep his club in the game.
It'd ultimately not be enough to earn a result, as MK Dons fell by a 2-1 final. But for now, Cody Cropper is making his best case to retain the #1 job. There's work to be done if he does so, as offensively-challenged MKD now sit four points below the red line with just seven games to play.
4. DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland)
Sunderland may still yet be relegated this season, but one thing we do know for sure is that DeAndre Yedlin will have a big say in the Black Cats' ultimate fate. He made his sixth consecutive start on Saturday vs. West Brom, and was instrumental with his play on both sides of the ball in a 0-0 draw.
On the attacking side, while not producing any goals, Yedlin took advantage of the space West Brom was giving. He was relentless up and down the right flank, creating numerous chances with his speed and sending in dangerous crosses.
Defensively, Yedlin continues to prove his mettle, helping keep a rare clean sheet. Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone had high praise for the entire back line, noting afterward, "We're really fighting for each other at the moment. We look very compact and my defense has been brilliant."
It'll need to keep being brilliant if Sunderland is to stay up. Champs-in-waiting Leicester City visit next, followed by a massive relegation showdown at Norwich City.
3. Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)
Now that we've learned how to pronounce his name, it's time to get used to saying it. Borussia Dortmund manager is surely saying it a lot more these days. He also keeps showing us just how much confidence he has in the young American.
With the score tied 2-2 on Saturday vs. Werder Bremen, Pulisic entered as a substitute in the 80th minute. It marked his seventh senior team appearance in just over two months, and his impact on the match was immediate. His dynamic wing play and confidence on the ball changed the game. Most importantly, he earned a late corner kick less than minutes after stepping on the field.
That corner resulted in Adrián Ramos' gamewinner just moments later, as Dortmund won its fifth straight across all competitions, and remains unbeaten since December 19. Second-place BVB remains five points back of Bayern Munich, still in position to pounce should the defending champs stumble.
2. Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
Fabian Johnson's presence was sorely missed by the United States during the recent international break, but USMNT fans were pleased to see him back on the field over the weekend. Sidelined with a groin injury for the two World Cup Qualifying matches vs. Guatemala, Johnson returned to the starting lineup Sunday for Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Johnson would turn in one of his top performances of the season. Given the overall quality of his play, that's no small feat. Lately he's been shining as a playmaker more than as a goalscorer. His final pass to Andre Hahn in the 60th minute would give Gladbach a 2-0 lead:
Andre Hahn spins, turns and slams his effort home after a nice layoff from #USMNT's Fabian Johnson. #BMGBSC https://t.co/fj3DBQeWHT— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) April 3, 2016
It marked Johnson's third assist in five games, bringing his total to five across all competitions. The floodgates opened from that point, as Gladbach would cruise to a 5-0 win vs. John Brooks-less Hertha Berlin. Most importantly, Gladbach took over fourth place on the Bundesliga table, regaining the inside track on the final UEFA Champions League berth.
1. Matt Miazga (Chelsea)
USMNT supporters had hoped Matt Miazga would get a first taste of Premier League action at some point this season. The early-risers among them were rewarded Saturday morning, when Chelsea's lineup revealed that Miazga would be starting at center back at Aston Villa.
Miazga made an impressive debut. He was calm on the ball and looked ready for the moment. He was successful in 1-on-1 defending when called upon. NBCSN viewers were treated to rave reviews from the game's commentators; his composure noted along with accolades that were well-deserved.
He also exhibited his dangerousness on set pieces. Miazga got a foot on the end of a 39th minute free kick, only to see his close range attempt snuffed out by fellow American Brad Guzan. There'd be plenty of offense elsewhere though, as Chelsea rolled to a 4-0 win.
Given the injuries that have plagued Chelsea's back line, it wouldn't be shocking to see Miazga get another start or two before the season is out. John Terry looks set to return next weekend, but surely manager Guus Hiddink won't hesitate to insert Miazga again if needed. Future opportunities have been earned.