Photos by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
TAMPA, Fla.– Sacha Kljestan and Marvell Wynne have been given several chances to impress with the U.S. national team over the past year, but their inability to make the most of those opportunities likely means they will both be playing for their World Cup lives when the U.S. men's national team hosts El Salvador in Tampa on Wednesday.
Kljestan and Wynne are both on the outside looking in as far as the World Cup roster is concerned, but a big match against El Salvador could earn the players a spot in the national team's friendly vs. the Netherlands in Amsterdam on March 3, meaning one more chance to state a case for a place on the U.S. World Cup roster.
"It's huge, because we all want to play in that game against Holland," said Kljestan. "We all know how important that is, especially leading up to the World Cup. All of us here know that a lot of guys from Europe are going to get called in, and there's going to be a few of us from here that are going to go."
Kljestan is trying to regain the form he showed with the national team in the fall of 2008, when he displayed creativity with his passing and put forth a good string of performances in the Olympics and in World Cup qualifiers.
A hat-trick performance against Sweden in a 3-2 friendly win in January 2009 put a stamp on Kljestan's impressive form, but the Chivas USA midfielder has struggled to replicate that ever since, making the friendly against El Salvador that much more important.
For Wynne, the match against the Catrachos provides an equal opportunity at redemption. Wynne looked less than convincing at right back in the Americans' 3-1 defeat to Honduras last month, getting caught out of position several times. But a good rebound game versus El Salvador could earn the Toronto FC player a spot in the friendly against the Netherlands.
Wynne has not had the type of quality performances Kljestan has had for the senior national team, but he has had his moments. Wynne looked promising in the 2008 Olympics, impressing with his world-class speed, ability to get up and down the flank and by proving to be a capable defender. He also played well in the U.S.-Sweden friendly, helping setup Kljestan's second goal when he won the U.S. a penalty kick.
Those type of performances are what Wynne is surely hoping for when he goes up against El Salvador in a game that could determine his World Cup fate.
"Give [head coach Bob Bradley] a hard decision on who to bring to the World Cup," Wynne said on what he wants to do with the El Salvador game. "I really want to be there. I want to show that I can use some of my strengths to the U.S.'s advantage. I can be a presence in the back, I'm comfortable with the line; I just want to come out and play my best game."
Wynne and Kljestan both flew to South Africa for the Confederations Cup last summer, but to return there for the World Cup, the pair of MLS players will need to live up their potential. The last chance to do that could come on Wednesday.
"I want to play in the World Cup more than anything," said Kljestan. "Obviously the game on Wednesday sets the tone for that."