Top Stories

Kljestan could be poised for first start under Klinsmann

Sacha Kljestan


Photo by


MEXICO CITY — With Jermaine Jones back in Germany recovering from an ankle injury suffered in the U.S. Men’s National team’s World Cup qualifying victory against Costa Rica, Jurgen Klinsmann has a variety of options to turn to for a replacement. As much as Maurice Edu seems like he should be a lock to fill in for Jones, Klinsmann could be ready to turn to a player who has yet to start for the U.S. since Klinsmann took charge.

Sacha Kljestan’s last start for the United States came in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals, and for more than a year and a half he has been biding his time for a chance to return to a more regular role. Klinsmann has yet to give him a start, choosing instead to use him as a substitute on six different occasions, most recently in the team’s loss to Honduras in February.

So why would Klinsmann turn to Kljestan now? It depends entirely on whether Klinsmann is serious about wanting to attack Mexico on Tuesday night rather than sitting back and defending. If he is, then there isn’t an available central midfielder with more experience in qualifiers than Kljestan.

It is easy to forget that Kljestan was a fixture for Bob Bradley in the lead-up to the 2010 World Cup. Kljestan appeared in 10 of 18 qualifiers, starting seven. Among those starts was a solid showing in the U.S. team’s 2-0 World Cup qualifying win vs. Mexico in Columbus, Ohio on Feb. 11, 2009.

“Not having (Jermaine Jones) obviously a coach always looks for the next solutions, we have players who can step in, if it’s Maurice Edu, if it’s Kyle Beckerman, if it’s Sacha Kljestan or if it’s Joe Corona, we have a lot of good players that give us those options,” Klinsmann said on Monday.

For Kljestan’s part, he believes he is more than capable of handling the duties of playing alongside Michael Bradley well. It is a partnership that has worked well for the United States before, and one Kljestan is hoping to see again on Tuesday.

“I feel comfortable to step in to do a job, especially if it’s next to Michael (Bradley),” Kljestan said. “We’ve played a lot of games together and we have a very good relationship. We have a good understanding of how we play, and the interesting thing for me is that the way we’re playing now is the same way we play at Anderlecht, and Michael reminds me a lot of the guy I play next to at Anderlecht, Lucas Biglia.

“It would be an easy way to step in for me, and I think it would bring a little more football quality to a game where we would need to make Mexico run a little bit.”

Bradley gave Kljestan a ringing endorsement as a potential replacement for Jones. He surely remembers their partnerships not only in 2010 World Cup qualifying, but the 2008 Olympics.

“Sacha, every time he comes in he shows that he’s a really good soccer player and as far as reading things, as far as understanding the game, as far as tactically knowing how to play, he’s so good in all those ways,” Bradley said. “There’s certain guys that are easy to play with, and when you have guys that are easy to play with that means a lot. That allows the team to play better, and it allows each guy around him to play better and so certainly Sacha’s one of those guys.”

Kljestan has had mixed results as a bench option under Klinsmann, but he does believe he has shown something coming off the bench despite how difficult it can be to make a mark with limited minutes.

“When you come off the bench you don’t really have a chance to make your stamp on the game,” Kljestan said. “You just try to do a job and help the team win. The good thing for me, against Honduras I came in and couldn’t make a difference and we lost, but in the previous three games that I came in off the bench we either came back and tied or came back and won.

“Those were good things to know that when I was on the field I helped in a certain way and we got some results, but it’s difficult when you come off the bench, especially in qualifying. It’s not easy.”

Kljestan could wind up being in the starting lineup on Tuesday, and rekindle a successful partnership with Bradley. If he does, it will be a clear sign that Klinsmann is serious about attacking Mexico, and it could be the first of several starts for Kljestan under Klinsmann if he can show he’s capable of being an effective starter.


  1. this may be my #1 criticism on JK… why have we not seen SK in CM yet? especially when considering who (besides bradley and jones) has gotten the starts at CM. now maybe we need him but he has zero experience in middle with this group of players.

    starts at CM under JK:
    edu: 11
    beckerman: 8
    williams: 5
    torres: 4
    kljestan: ZERO

    i find this really hard to understand

  2. So pumped for this game. I expect JK will go conservative in the first half, trying to weather the storm with this type of lineup:


    Hopefully keeping it 0-0 or 1-0 and inserting more speed, shifting to something like this:


    I took out Deuce and Jozy bc of the altitude/smog issues while Herc can run forever. Who knows who will struggle with the conditions, though. I’m sure subs will be based mostly on legs, but ideally we start narrow and compact, opening up at the end and hopefully nick a goal. I also wonder if we’ll see Michael Freaking Orozco Fiscal for Goodson given that this isn’t really a good matchup for CG.

  3. ——-Altidore——-

    it wouldn’t bother me if Edu replaced Goodson, but this should more or less be the starting XI.
    Possible subs: EJ, Corona, Boyd, Shea, Beckerman

  4. I love it when players take an indirect dig at the coach regarding playing time…and they use that as an excuse as to why they do not impact the game.

    Last I checked, poor passing and decision-making leaves a bad taste in your mouth whether it came in the first or the last minute and God help you if you make it in the final minutes being tied or even down a goal.

  5. Off topic and maybe not even worth discussing…
    But does anyone else get the feeling that Sasha was one of the 11 anonymous sources? His role with the team has arguably changed the most since JK took over (besides maybe Bornstein), and I remember some tweets coming from him last year.

    Anyway, if he plays I’m sure he’ll be that much more motivated to get the job done

    • Never even thought of that. I was always assuming Gooch and Adu, for different reasons of course. Gooch probably feels frustrated at confluence of injuries and dip in form and Adu just needs to suck it up and play like a man. It’s never too late is all I’m saying. Maybe he grows up in Bahia, but of course I’m not holding my breath.

  6. I wouldn’t be surprised now if the USA trots this lineup:
    Beasley Gomez/Zusi
    Kljestian Bradley
    Fiscal Gonzalez Goodson Cameron

  7. Good article, i was getting on board until i realized that is dempsey’s spot. unless… you are talking about sliding him in next to bradley ala jermaine and keeping deuce in the cam role. that is interesting idea, taking an attacking player, sasha,and making him a defensive midfielder next to a defensive midfielder. i’m not sure i endorse playing him so deep.

    i think he ought to play kind on the wing, pinching in, play either one or two true d mids in their spots, and keep deuce in his spot.

    • ——Gomez—–Altidore

      OR to get sasha on field


      I like the first line up better with beas in an attacking role. optionally slide edu in back and put beckerman in. i don’t see where klejstan slides in on our ‘best eleven’ starting line up. i like beas on the wing more than him, and i like deuce as attacking mid more than him, and i like a d mid as a d mid…..

      maybe if we play bradley as d mid and put sasha on the right. yeah, there you go. i can seethat, but not in center.

      • The only other option, and this is more and more likely what I think the article was talking about, is put sasha as a d-mid directly next to bradley, and he displays a strong defensive and offensive game from there and proves me wrong. he does work hard defensively, i’m cheering for him.

      • but under normal conditions, unless sasha is great in practice right now, i’d put beckerman or edu in d-mid, either sole or one next to bradley.

        i’m not sure if this article came out because A. klinsman hinted at sasha being primed to perform, B. Ives believes he is primed to perform, or C. Sasha wanted to make a statement that he is primed to perform on the day before the game. Or D. Sasha was close at hand.

  8. Here’s the problem: Klesjtan plays in a home game for the US where we dominate possession and he plays pretty well. Or Klesjtan plays in a game where we are losing and the opposing team it sitting back and defending and sometimes Klesjtan plays well. Anytime I’ve seen him start against a good opponent he has been a turnover machine. Klesjtan gives alot of effort and is above average scorer for a midfielder. However, in tight spaces where there’s alot of pressure on the ball(like tonight), Klesjtan doesn’t play well. Don’t forget Anderlecht is a top team in Belgium. Klesjtan’s teammates are usually superior technically and dominate possession against their opponents.

  9. It depends on who we play around that spot. Klejstan tends to (or has in the past) make the pass he wants to make instead of the pass the defense is dictating he should make. That’s a problem for a potent counter-attacking team like Mexico.

    The real problem is that most of our midfielders have this issue. I think it could be anyone, and that frightens me to death. I hate to say it, but Beckerman might be my choice. He has no problem deferring to Bradley, who we need to be driving the attack and not sitting back having to recover when Sacha gives the ball away. Sacha, Joe Benny, Edu will all try to attack and leave us open.

  10. I think JK will reintroduce a #6 for the Mexico match. I think that leaves the same back line as used against Costa Rica with Edu playing just in front. That would leave Kljestan playing next to Bradley, in front of Edu. I think Zusi gets bumped to the bench. The benefit is Bradley and Kljestan would have more freedom to go forward and the big draw back (see Honduras) is width. If Dempsey starts on the left side of the front three, that leaves Beasley patrolling the left wing and Dempsey cutting inside. We know Beasley can run all day and he is used to playing in Mexico. On the right side, width will be more of a problem, but Gomez has shown he is not afraid to come back in defend which will provide some cover for Cameron if he gets caught too far forward.

    • Sasha is good, i have seen his quality play from time to time but never has impressed me as a quality national team starter. Corona certainly looks like a future baller.. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get 15-25 minutes in this game. Just remember the first 30′ vs Mexico is like playing red rover during a prison break, if jurgen wants to gamble we could try to couter attack a quick goal but more realistically we need guys like Beckerman, Edu and Sasha to hold our ground

      • Basically agree that Sascha is not the answer for tonight or for the long-term. But one thing you said caught my attention: “if jurgen wants to gamble we could try to couter attack a quick goal…”

        And that got me thinking: Has the USMNT under Klinsmann scored a true take-it-to-’em counter-attacking goal? Maybe we have, but doing a quick trip down memory lane I cannot think of a single counter-attacking goal right off-hand. Can anyone else? And I think this is a major weakness from Klinsmann that he needs to work on, developing the capability of the USMNT to counter-attack.

      • I know what you mean. I feel at times we get that Arsene Wenger syndrome where every guy is thinking “pass” and no one is thinking “attack and shoot”. Several times every game we have worked a quick counter to get the ball in a dangerous position, and then we knock it back and reshape because no one wants to have a go.

      • I hope they are saving that counter-attacking goal for tonight in the 90th minute of a tie game.

        I think Azteca would implode on itself if that happened.

    • Depends. If we need someone out wide, I’d rather have Joe Benny bc he plays there with Xolos, but inside, I’d rather see Sacha since that’s where he plays with Anderlecht. Sacha plays extremely well for them on the inside, but he’s been putrid with MNT when JK has inserted him on the wing.

  11. I feel like Kljestan has been on the (mostly) out since his red card against Italia at the Confederations Cup 2009. He’s been quietly playing well since then. Maybe he can prove the doubters – me included – wrong.

    And, @V-8, I so wish we had Torra Torra Torres for this game.

  12. Why do I get the sense that Jose Torres is going to be watching this game with a plate of Chimichangas and a bottle of Tequila?

  13. or maybe something like this:





  14. If Klinsmann would start Orozco, let’s not forget that Geoff Cameron played left back in his last Stoke game befor the break, plus he has played DM several times for Stoke. Not that i think these line-ups are going to happen, but they are within the (Klinsmann) realm of possibilities (if Klinsmann would start Orozco).





    • Good point. Given that it’s not a perfect matchup for Goodson’s skill set, though, I wonder if JK might put Orozco-Fiscal on the right and slide big Geoff in at CB like you said, but I feel it’s more likely Edu makes the start instead of Corona, either partnering with MB like JJ did against the Ticos or holding dm behind MB.

  15. Not as sure as everyone that we will go at Mexico. There’s a myth that we went toe to toe with El Tri in August when, in actuality, we bunkered it up pretty good. I’d love to see a Sacha/MB cm pairing but I have to think JK will go defensive.

    • As someone who has long advocated that Klinsmann quit playing 3 to 4 defensive midfielders and move to a 4-2-3-1, which worked quite well Friday against Costa Rica, I think it would be a huge risk to do the other extreme and start only one bona fide DM in the name of MB. I think we need two true DMs–mostly like MB paired with either Edu or Beckerman.

    • “There’s a myth that we went toe to toe with El Tri in August when, in actuality, we bunkered it up pretty good”

      Funny, this myth may only exist in your head. No-one has set up that scarecrow.

      • Apparently you don’t read much. See below quotation from Michael Bradley on this very blog:

        “By now when you look at the development of our team, I think we’re ready to come here and play them on even terms,” Bradley said. “I think we did that in August. I think we did that in the (2011) Gold Cup Final.”

  16. ————————————ALTIDORE————————————————





    Just a little “tune-up” in defense, Cameron shifts in and Orozco takes his place, replace Jones with Sasha and we are ready to go (We don’t need to do too much). I would say Edu instead of Kjestan and get some “Former Rangers” chemistry working on the left with Beasley but I don’t think we are going to be sitting back in this game. With Corona ready to come in for Zusi, Boyd for Altidore, Johnson for Gomez and Edu for Sasha after signs of fatigue we are ready for Azteca.

    • I don’t see Orozco coming in just before the game and getting the start. To me that would disrupt any emerging continuity or chemistry in the back. Plus he isn’t exactly speedy either so the change wouldn’t address the quickness factor El Tri possesses. (I guess stranger things have happened though).

      To be honest, I’m confused by all the clamor for Orozco. Sure he scored in Azteca but he hasn’t really done much else to impress at the international level.

    • IMO there are 2 likely adjustments/wrinkles to your line-up.
      1) Edu could be used in place of Kljestan
      2) Edu could be slotted into CB, similar to the Friendly against Mex in Aug.
      That being said I believe that your original line-up is the closest we’re likely to guess at.

  17. Let’s Roll Out This Formation vs. Mexico


  18. Sometimes when I read these comments, I wonder if the people commenting even know the game, or keep up with the players. Sascha is a much different player for Anderlecht, he is a deep-lying playmaker with defensive responsibilities. He has had a few beautiful assists this year with well weighted, incisive passes. He is what our attack needs, as long the wingers, Clint, and Jozy get into the chanels and make runs.

    • I have not watched Sascha this season, except for a few highlights. But if what you are saying is the case, that Sascha has been playing “deep-lying playmaker with defensive responsibilities,” then I see absolutely no reason to start him in Mexico City. This is the exact role that Mikey Bradley played very well against Costa Rica on Friday and it would not make any sense to have two deep playmakers starting. I would be surprised to see Sascha starting, and think it will be MB playing as a Number Six slightly ahead of either Edu or Beckerman, the position Jones had against Costa Rica. Or possibly MB will keep the same deep spot he had against Costa Rica, with Joe Corona, who can be a tenacious defender as well as an explosive attacker, playing slightly ahead of MB in Jones’s spot.

      • biff, my friend, a Number 6 would be where Edu or Beckerman are playing, directly in front of the back four. That is the position that MB occupied against Costa Rica while Jones played as more of a number 8, higher up the pitch than MB breaking up play and mostly just being a huge nuisance for Costa Rica (mission accomplished). In what you are proposing, Edu or Beckerman would be the 6, and Bradley the 8.

      • hey podner. I would still classify Jermaine Jones’s positioning against Costa Rica as a defensve midfielder in a 4-2-3-1, although he was generally a few steps ahead of MB. Basically, the same sort of formation used by Real Madrid with MB and Jones in the positions played by Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira (or Javi Martinez and Basti Schweinsteiger of FC Bayern), both of whom are classic defensive midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 who often join the attack, just as both Jones and MB attacked now and then against Costa Rica in a fluid formation.

        How would you classify Alonso and Khedira (or Martinez and Schweini) in a numbering system? Is one a six and one an eight? In my mind they are both Sixes. And I think that is the way the defensive midfielders for Bayern and the German national team are generally described, as dual Sixes. But I could be wrong. Enlighten me…

    • I wouldn’t give him defensive responsibilities in this game, not if I have aspirations of winning it. I also think he needs lots of space to hit his homerun passes that he won’t get here; like Freddy Adu.

  19. Off topic but what any word what color kits the teams will be in? US in the new whites, Mexico in green? Or black?

  20. Man, I feel like a crazy person. I’ve never been even remotely impressed with Sacha on a defensive or offensive level. He looks clumsy on the ball. He’s easily beaten by quick players. That spells disaster against Mexico. What am I missing?

    • I wouldn’t be quite so harsh, but I tend to agree.

      When I see Anderlecht, Kljestan seems competent.

      For the national team, I’d personally much prefer Jose Torres as a deep lying play-maker (I know he is hurt) or even Benny Feilhaber. Both are better passers of the ball, no?

      Still wishing/waiting to see Torres played centrally where he is at his best…

    • I see him as like Freddy Adu, good hitting wide open home run ball passes and free kick — which will make you a Camp Cupcake hero — but not particularly defensive and not quick when under pressure, not really A team material. He needs time to play the ball and won’t get it here. I think it’d be smarter to play Corona, or any of a number of people simply left out, eg, Mixx, Gatt, Benny.

      I also think when Mexico starts going side to side around the perimeter he’s slow enough he won’t be able to stop it. He’s a distance runner type, he’s fit, he doesn’t have speed.

    • I think the biggest thing going for him for this particular roster is that he’s played with a lot of the guys for awhile, youth squads, Olympic team 2008, etc. particularly had a good rapport with Bradley

  21. Why are we sitting gonzo? Did I miss something last game or is he not the cb of the future? Seems like Klinsmann thinks so. So why sit him? Think we see edu for jones and Sacha for Zusi

    • The concern is lack of speed against the mexican attack, which has plenty of it. Particularly paired with Goodson, who has never been fleet of foot. Think one of them (Goodson or Gonzo) has to sit, and either slide Cameron inside or bring in Edu.

      • I would sit Goodson instead. If the plan is to sit Gonzo of the two, that’s dumb. Gonzo is the better defender. Goodson, if he doesn’t get outright burned, may just bundle someone over.

  22. I’d love to see Sacha, Michael, and Mo in an Olympic triangle in midfield. Mo in front of the defense. Sacha and Michael flat in front of him, Clint pinching in from the left and pulling our attack’s strings. Zusi swinging the crosses in. Beasley overlaps Clint while the right back stays put.

  23. Where Kljestan starts/responsibility he has is key.

    I’ve never been a fan of his but I can’t ignore the strides he’s made since moving to Europe. I hope that translates to the Nats and he adds some attack/distribution to the midfield (not as winger).

  24. If he does and plays well then cool. More player choices for Klinsmann to think about going forward.

    I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Edu paired with Goodson at CB.

    Possible starting 11.


    Or you put Edu at RB and pair Cameron and Goodson.

    Wouldn’t be surprised if Gonzo is sat for this game.

  25. ——————Altidore


    Cameron Edu Gonzo/Goodson Fiscal


    Speculating is fun

  26. I’m fine with this move. The team seemed to come together Friday night. No sense in changing it drastically; and that probably leaves Edu out (who is not a two way player and would be out of sync in Jones’s role). Im going to reserve comment on Kljestan. I was a big fan of his at Chivas, thought he was exposed at the international level under Bradley however but I don’t watch the Belgium league. So we will see, but I like it.

    Nevertheless, with 22 hrs to go before kick off, I am excited and confident!

    • Sasha is a different player when he plays in Belgium. I watched him and his team. Sasha is good. Sasha can match vision with skill….JK has been too defensive minded to let our offense unleash, but when it does, Sasha can play a role on the offense.

      • Lets get this straight Kljestan is not an offensive catalyst though. The guy plays as a DM now.

        Can Kljestan do a job. Absolutely. But the offense isn’t going to all of the sudden be on overdrive now.

      • We have two midfielders with top-notch first touch and passing vision – Bradley and Kljestan. Why JK has been reluctant to play Kljestan is beyond me. SK has his limitations, too, but to me clearly ought to be CAM, in front of two DMs – Bradley and whoever replaces Jones for this one.

        Dempsey on left mid, who will play as kind of a floating second CAM/second striker. Having F. Johnson behind Dempsey was great because he could fill that touchline void. Beasley has the speed to do it, but isn’t nearly as effective as Johnson.

        On the right, I think it should be Gatt. He’s not ready yet, but we don’t have another natural winger in Donovan’s absence, and SK laying balls into space for Gatt to run on would force the Mexicans to respect that option. Plus, Gatt will shoot when he gets a chance. But this line-up would be playing to keep Mexico honest on the right while setting up left side attacks, or striker drops back to SK or Bradley, who are adequate to decent finishers.

        Of course, I realize Gatt isn’t there. So Gomez, EJ, etc., will have to fill in (but neither has Gatt’s speed nor Donovan’s passing vision to force to same level of respect from Mexican defenders).

  27. I know, totally unrelated, but I would like to see Terrence Boyd and Herculez Gomez start up top. Then bring in a fresh Jozy in the second half either to ice the game off or get us back in it.

      • Nonsense! Jozy fought like a warrior all match long and created our only goal. If he’s healthy, he starts tonight.

      • Fat lot of good playing hard on snow on Friday does you when you switch over to a grass pitch on Tuesday and most of the other players can trap a ball.

        To me, Jozy was useful for that game as a “mudder,” a strong fellow who plays hard in the conditions. But on a grass pitch I think he’s too slow to chase defensively all game, and not technical enough to maintain possession at this level of a contest.

      • Because he’s a striker that hasn’t striked in a year and a half. Mexico in Azteca is a different environment than Costa Rica at home. There will be little time on the ball. When Altidore doesn’t have players around him that will provide possession he has been a turnover machine at times.

      • I partially agree with you in the sense that Jozy is the type of forward (like some other strikers) who needs a midfield to provide service to players to play off or interplay. He has not had that since LD. I was hopping Zusi could provide that on the wing or we could with some more offensive minded CM pairing not neither has happened.

      • More athletic and technically sound. Capable of coming up with something like a backheel that goes where it’s supposed tl.

        But I wouldn’t start either one. Gomez and Dempsey. Active two way players, make Mexico work.

      • Are you referring to the backheel in Azteca that was clearly a shot but was off enough that Orozco-Fiscal could tap it in?

        I really like Boyd too, but that’s quite an exaggeration.

      • Again, we are all entitled to our own opinions, but I really do not know how you are drawing some of these conclusions. Boyd is not (1) more athletic nor (2) technical than Jozy! Please do not take 1 errant attempt at a backwards kick and call that being more technical.

    • If you want to bring Jozy in later to ice the game or get us back in it, THEN HE SHOULD START. Terrence Boyd will ge his chance to start, but not in his first qualifier at Azteca.

      • one thing to consider about that comment is that Boyd has already played in Azteca, I believe he scored the winning goal.
        That being said I feel Jozy should and will start, although it would be good to see Boyd get a little run.

    • The whole keep the same line up critique is rather silly to me, as this comment illustrates, even if he wanted to, he couldn’t use the same line up. National teams are quite different than club teams, and that critique in particular seemed like an attempt to just find one more thing to criticize Kinsman for, it was just piling on. National team matches are obviously much more spread out, so you’re far more likely to have different players injured from one match to the next, as well as having different players available depending on what league they play in. Plus, most of those matches were friendlies, where his main aim was to experiment. Friendlies are the equivalent of preseason matches, nobody cares a whit if club teams mix and match in preseason.

    • Why would Klinsmann keep the same lineup (sans Jones)?

      Mexico in Azteca is a whole different challenge than Costa Rica at home i the snow. Quick play through the middle is Mexico’s forte, that argues for the US to have central backs with quicker feet. One tall guy to win the areal balls which Mexico will offer up as well should be enough, so either Gonzo or Goodson is likely to sit to be replaced by one of Edu or Cameron. (Cameron could be replaced by Fiscal.) Beckerman showed he could stay home and front the back 4 the last time the US played Mexico, Bradley and Kljestan on either side of him. The front 3 is likely to be Gomez, Altidore and Dempsey, but that trio has no real counter-attacking speed so EJ or even Zusi might be used. Beasley had a great game, but I still wonder about his patience to stay home and defend more which will be required vs Mexico, a more natural defender might get the not there and that would free up Beasley to be used as a fast counter-attacking wing.

      So, no, I don’t think we will see just one change from the last match and there are plenty of reasons we should not.

      • +1 We have a “player pool” because different games present different challenges. Sure there will be some players that will start unless they are on a poor run of form, but there will always be changes, tweaks, experiments. If Klinsmann always had the same line up I would be worried.

    • After such a stamina sucking game played in the snow and now heading to the heights of the Azteca? It’d be suicide. We need energy to compete.


Leave a Comment