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Kljestan reviving USMNT career at Gold Cup

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photo by Bill Barrett/ISIphotos.com


By FRANCO PANIZO

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – For Sacha Kljestan, a year has made a world of difference.

Last summer, Kljestan was battling the disappointment of not having made the U.S. men's national team roster for the World Cup. Now, he's helping the Americans in their pursuit of the Gold Cup while also reviving a national team career that, for many pundits, appeared to be on life support.

Kljestan's contributions this summer haven't been headline grabbing or eye popping, but what Kljestan has provided is some much-needed composure on the ball and energy as a second-half substitute, much to the approval of head coach Bob Bradley and his staff. 

"Coaches have just told me come onto the game, try to keep possession of the ball and keep it moving at a good pace and be honest working offensively and defensively, so I've just tried to do that," said Kljestan. "My passing has been good, making some runs off the ball, just trying to bring energy to the game."

Kljestan's improved performances with the U.S. team come after a season with RSC Anderlecht that saw the club finish first in the league's table (though it later lost in the playoffs).

That season has done wonders for Kljestan. From having to work on his game to get into the Beglian club's starting lineup to playing in several key games, Kljestan has gained invaluable experience that is translating over to the international level.

"Personally, I feel very confident now having had a whole season at Anderlecht underneath my belt," said Kljestan. "Consistency has gotten a lot better. I feel I'm more consistent when I have the ball; more plays are coming off for myself.

Kljestan's improvements haven't only come on the offensive side. Defensively, Kljestan has provided relentless energy and tactical discipline during the Gold Cup.

"He understands the game extremely well," said Steve Cherundolo. "He is also somebody who is willing to do work on the defensive end and he's also got a nose for the goal. He can set up goals but also score the odd goal and I'm sure he will help us throughout the rest of the tournament."

For the Americans, the rest of the tournament begins with a quarterfinal date against undefeated Jamaica. Kljestan is unlikely to start, but he is likely to see the field should the Americans need a creative spark off the bench or some fresh legs to do the dirty work on the defensive end.

"I'm 90 minutes fit, (so) for 15 minutes I can run hard," said Kljestan.

That's what he has done well at so far, and what's allowed him to become a regular contributor to the U.S. team again.

Comments

  1. Yes. I believe he is very well composed with the ball, but we shouldn’t expect him to outrun any defenders. I wish we could get someone in that role that has a better burst and top end speed.

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  2. Seriously though, what has happened to Torres? is he still at Pachuca? is he starting? Ever since SA it’s like he’s disappeared.

    I get that he was bruned in a few of his appearances, but he’s far too promising a player to get passed on. Player like Torres, Holden, Diskerrud, Adu, Bedoya, et al represent a potential sea change in the kind of midfield we could have in the next 3-6 years (with Michael Bradley included in that mix of course). Altidore, Bunbury, Agudelo will still be in the mix up to, even Charlie Davies could get back to shape up for qualifying. Add to that a back like that has a more seasoned Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, Goodson, Chandler and Lichaj and you’re looking at a pretty respectable pool of players in the post Donovon Dempsey era.

    that said, I don’t want that era to end until after 2014.

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  3. not trying to rip on the coaches in our country nor am i saying he’s going to be the national team’s savior, but going to europe was probably the best thing that ever happened to him. while not athletically gifted, kljestan is a pretty intelligent player and tries to make things happen on the field, and with better tactical coaching at anderlecht you’re seeing the benefits. he’s providing valuable play in a sub role at this gold cup. and like others said, i’m shocked his defense improved the way it did.

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  4. Sacha is mediocre, at best. Bad touch, limited vision, no shot, no speed.

    Of course these are criteria for instand membership to our national team (i.e. Altidore, Bornstein, Spector, Wondolowski)

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  5. I kind of agree. He has been okay, but i’m not buying Sacha stock yet. He’s playing for a pretty good club so I’ll give him a longer look, but i am skeptical.

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  6. It’s a funny tagline but it really doesn’t pass thr fact check. MB is clearly among the best players in the pool. DMB was one of the most successful players in US history, being the only nat to ever start for a deep Champions league run, and he was in what are considered prime years. His fall was inexplicable. Any manager worth his salt has to bring in DMB in those spots. I never loved Sacha but he certainly earned his way back by getting pt for a perpetual Euro league contender. Bornstein is the best argument but, let’s face it, ALL our left backs suck. It’s the toughest spot in the worls to fill. Quick, name a good US left back….. Just one…. Ever.

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  7. well you must not have a very good eye at spotting players doing well…did he pass backwards when he almost created that missed goal by bradley against panama? if peeps are still trashing this kid than i must assume that they either just started watching soccer, or flat out don’t get it

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  8. Sasha is simply horrible!! What has he done? He hasn’t created any chances for our squad, and the only passes this clown makes are backwards! And for those that claim that his defense has been solid, please spare the poop. I can care less for his defense.. We have 10 defenders already, I’m not impressed. I’m glad 20 guys here have some love for him, but that’s as far as it goes. The man is Wack! Bedoya created chances and sparked the team a bit, but nothing to be getting horny over. The competition is weak, yet we look awful… Nothing to be proud of, we should be finishing better. I can’t give credit to our team because teams like Lupe haven’t really done anything to deserve respect.

    Fire Sasha and BOB 2011 campaign!!! 🙂

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  9. I doesn’t. He just doesn’t like BB. It’s funny how the most benign articles can turn into BB bashing. Also, B.Stef all national team coaches show loyalty to certain players. You almost have to, or you wouldn’t have a core unit.

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  10. I’m glad. I have never had a problem with him, I’ve thought he has looked good since he has come on in the GC games. A couple of times I thought he should have put a strike on goal from distance when he had time a space, but nobody on the squad has really been doing that except Jozy and Dempsey.

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  11. I’ve always liked his intelligence. I’m glad he’s developing more consistency and poise. Frankly, the way he is playing now is to me less unexpected than the low ebb he hit for awhile. Okay, so he ain’t Zidane, but he’s not the chump some critics claimed.

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  12. You’re right, Badoya did. I have said this 3 times on different subjects and I’ll say it again. SACHA SHOULD NOT EVEN BE ON THE ROSTER. Torres and Hercules should be on this roster. But i guess those two are not Bradley’s golden boys. Look I get it, we all want this team to be something that they are not. I want all our players to do us proud, but I did not like this roster from the start. Bradley shows to much loyalty to certain players. He is similar to Areina, who Bradley was an assistant for. I just want more creativity in our play across the board. Maybe I should direct my should not be on the roster rant to the coach.

    Bob Bradley you should not be on the roster.

    WIN U.S. WIN!!!!!

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  13. no one had a great game against Panama. SHouldnt more blame be given to the players that actually started the match. If i recall, the US played exponentially better once the subs Kljestan and Bedoya came on at the same time.

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  14. I cant believe how much praise this semi improved average player(Sacha) is getting. Any player with fresh legs can sub in and have brief flashes of good play. He is slow. I’m glad he says he has confidence on the ball, because I haven’t seen it. He had one good cross to Donovan. Where was his confidence just outside the 18 against Panama? He should have put that ball in to space quickly, which was there, or cut it loose with a strike on goal. Which if he has “confidence” I believe he would have ripped that on goal.

    Don’t get me wrong I want to like him. I want him to prove me wrong. I just cant see him making me eat my words. Hopefully, for the USNT, and my belief that the U S is a good team he will.

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  15. Edu’s passing range is poorer and he is also prone to turnovers. I don’t really think it clear cut that either is better.

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  16. Our best player at his position, someone who comes off the bench, two players who aren’t dressing, and one who wasn’t even invited to train. Sounds like those five are definitely favorites.

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  17. except they play completely different positions and roles for the Nats. In absolute terms though, yeah, Edu is better.

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  18. I like it! Here’s a story of a coach named Bradley… The Bradley bunch… and that is how they all became the Bradley bunch!

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  19. I’ve kinda slowed down my Sacha Kljestan hate train. As a Galaxy fan, I’ve pretty much always hated him. He was a punk in the SuperClasico games, and he put in some pretty bad performances in the World Cup qualifying and the Confederations Cup. I thought it was joke that he got on the cover of FIFA. But he’s looked pretty good in the first few Gold Cup games. I don’t think he’s starter material, but he’s been doing a nice job as a super sub. I’d still prefer Feilhaber, but Kljestan is at least filling that void.

    The Anderlecht move is just what he needed. He really started sucking as soon as he cut his hair and the Celtic move didn’t go through.

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  20. The Bradley Bunch….Michael, Sacha, Rodgers, Borsntein, Demarcus.

    I admit Michael and Sacha are good players but the coach gives them a lot of chances to show themselfs unlike other players not in the Bradley Bunch.

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  21. He has really improved, based on his performance as a super-sub so far. Obviously the move from Chivas USA to Anderlecht was just what he needed.

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  22. Looked pretty good against Panama but he still needs to turn it up a notch.

    On a more SERIOUS note, I’m just glad he finally got rid of the mullet. Granted he might look like Ibrahimovic if he put on an AC Milan jersey and lost the mustache, but PLEASE don’t bring that ugly mullet back! You gotta have some killer baller skills to counterbalance wearing the ugly mullet on a soccer field.

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  23. About damn time. Well, he can still make a bad pass evry now and the.

    He looks like the Sacha from 2008!

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  24. Speaking of reviving, will someone please wake up the USMNT team. They have three tough matches ahead: Jamaica, Panama and Mexico.

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  25. He frequently tries the incisive pass, which is something I highly value. Provided he keeps not f*cking up too badly, I’m happy to see him get 20-30 minutes here and there in the GC. Depending on a variety of things, I could see the same and more in WCQ.

    Of all the things that I am tired of hearing, perhaps “[Player X] should never wear a USMNT jersey again!” is the most irritating. Especially when concerning players on the sunny side of 25 (I guess Sacha barely counts on that score, but still).

    Grab some perspective, folks: players are rising and falling all the time. It isn’t as though he knocked up your sister, pissed on the flag, kicked a dog, and then scored an own-goal that eliminated us from the WC…

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  26. True to the article, he looks very much more matured from his time in Europe. He has composure on the ball and has been helping defensively as well.

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  27. Love Kljestan, has so much energy to make plays on both sides of the ball, and I’m so glad he’s coming good after that strong year at Anderlecht. Lots of Americans have trouble breaking into the XI at clubs abroad but Kljestan has done it through hard work in training and showing his talent on the pitch. So happy he’s a part of the GC squad.

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