Sacha Kljestan And The USMNT: A Big Week For His International Future

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New York Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan has been called in to the US national team camp for its next pair of World Cup qualifiers this week, replacing injured defender John Anthony Brooks. The news comes as a welcome announcement on the heels of his excellent work for the Red Bulls throughout the 2016 MLS campaign, setting a new single-season franchise record for assists along the way (15).

On top of strong performances creating scoring chances from his attacking midfield role, the 30-year old California native has added five goals on the season and has demonstrated a resourceful leadership ability for his club side. US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann has rarely called in Kljestan, especially since his move from the Belgian Pro League’s Anderlecht to MLS in January of 2015.

With a clear need for an effective number ten in the US lineup, Kljestan may have a chance to show he can be a useful option moving forward. We look at why he would be a good fit with the US national team for future World Cup qualifiers and the challenges he will face along the way.

Sacha Kljestan and the USMNT: A Big Week for His International Future


Jurgen Klinsmann has had a rotating cast at the attacking midfield position for some time. Often using Seattle’s Clint Dempsey in the position, Klinsmann has wanted to see Dempsey used higher up the field next to Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore. That obviously won’t be the case for the near future as Dempsey seeks treatment for an irregular heartbeat.

With Hamburg’s Bobby Wood coming into his own and his ability to play on the wing as well as the striker position, the need for accurate passing and pinpoint service is at a premium.

Based on this criteria, Kljestan can provide these necessary skills and be a danger on free kicks and set pieces. While he may not possess the speed always looked for in the attacking midfield role, his vision and positioning has been an asset during the Red Bulls’ current run of good form.


Klinsmann has used different formations from time to time, including a 4-3-3. But more times than not, he lines up the US national team in a 4-4-2 diamond midfield pattern that creates space on the wings and opens up the midfield behind the forwards.

Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley have seen time at the top of the diamond, with both receiving mixed reviews.

While head coach Jesse Marsch and the Red Bulls use a 4-2-3-1 variation, Sacha Kljestan is comfortable playing in front of a defensive midfielder and can provide service to the US forwards.

With wide options like Gyasi Zardes and Alejandro Bedoya on the left and right flanks, the Red Bulls’ trequartista will be able to set up scoring opportunities in bunches.


Klinsmann has a tendency to call in “his guys”, and Kljestan finds himself low on the depth chart. The fact that he was called in due to an injured player is telling as well.

At 30 years old and finding few recent international caps, the coming set of matches against St. Vincent & The Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago feel like a situation where Kljestan is being brought in for a limited cameo.

He will need a standout performance in at least one of the two games and may find himself subbed in off the bench. With the Red Bulls traveling to Vancouver for a Saturday evening encounter with the Whitecaps, New York will be sorely missing their star midfielder. But a strong turnout for the US national team may see Kljestan back in the picture for the Stars and Stripes heading towards the 2018 FIFA World Cup.