Club form helps Kljestan earn U.S. recall

After six months of silence on the international level, American midfielder Sacha Kljestan successfully parlayed improving club displays into a U.S. recall.
Positive club form for Anderlecht in Belgium had hardly seemed to earn Sacha Kljestan any traction with the U.S. national team. That changed Monday, when Jurgen Klinsmann called the 27-year-old into the roster for a pair of vital World Cup qualifiers Oct. 12 and 16.

Kljestan last suited up in a U.S. jersey in February, when the United States beat Italy, 1-0. He also came on as a substitute in a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica early in Klinsmann's tenure. Between and since, though, Kljestan found that his starting role for Anderlecht counted for little in a congested American midfield.

"Sacha, he's versatile. He can play on the left, on the half-left, on the half-right. He's definitely not a winger," Klinsmann said. "How we had to bring him in in the Italy game as a left-left midfielder in a flat midfield line. That was difficult for him to cope with, but he gave everything he had in order to get that win."

The German coach kept scouting the former Chivas USA midfielder. And for this round of callups – the final two matches of the semifinal round of CONCACAF qualifying, against Antigua and Barbuda and Guatemala – Kljestan was favored over Pachuca's Jose Francisco Torres to earn a plane ticket.

U.S. assistant Andreas Herzog recently took in Kljestan's performance in Anderlecht's 3-0 loss to Malaga in the UEFA Champions League, but Kljestan's showing caught the U.S. coaches' eye.

"He did very well. Even if they lost that game, he played in a way that we wanted to see him play," Klinsmann said. "He was very aggressive, he was very direct. He looked for the vertical balls to play, he didn't play sideways the whole time. He pushed forward in order to get shots off himself. We're pleased with the way he's playing right now, and that's why he's getting that call."

The United States is tied with Jamaica and Guatemala with seven points at the top of Group A. Klinsmann says he's targeting six points in the next two games to secure passage to the Hexagonal, and that Kljestan's role, should he play, will be to ignite the attack.

"I think he's a player that always looks dangerous around the box," Klinsmann said. "He has a very good shot. He has a good eye for players that make certain runs for strikers. I think he has qualities that are good for our team."

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