Kljestan's brilliance in Belgium merits long look from Klinsmann
Sacha Kljestan is a consistent top player for his club but rarely used by the U.S.
Maybe Jurgen Klinsmann has made up his mind that Kljestan doesn't fit his system
Fulham's Clint Dempsey added another tally to his single-season career-high
When the NCAA men's basketball tournament takes center stage in about a month, we'll hear plenty usage of the term "blind résumé." It is a comparison method for decision-makers to look at the body of work for teams on the tournament-field bubble without being clouded by predetermined bias linked to a school's name or conference affiliation.
While it is far from an exact science, the blind résumé provides a meat-and-potatoes breakdown of who merits consideration for inclusion based on tangible accomplishments, leaving name and reputation out of the equation.
The same tactic can be applied to American soccer players and their cases for inclusion on the U.S. national team. Take this brief example, for the aptly named Player A:
Player A has essentially followed Jurgen Klinsmann's road map for young, American talent, leaving MLS for Europe at 24.
Player A has secured regular, starter's minutes for a major club at a position of need for the national team.
Player A continues to improve in all areas of his game.
Player A is more than familiar with the U.S. setup and has proved to be a valuable complementary piece internationally as recently as this summer.
So Player A makes the cut then, right?
Not if Player A happens to be Sacha Kljestan. Not yet, anyway.
Despite being a consistent starter and top performer in central midfield for RSC Anderlecht, Belgium's best team, the 26-year-old Kljestan has remained far removed from a U.S. roster since September, the only time he has been called in during Klinsmann's eight months in charge. He came off the bench in the 66th minute of the 1-0 loss to Costa Rica on Sept. 2 for his only U.S. minutes since performing as an effective option during the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Adding insult to insult, the playmaker was an unused substitute in the following United States friendly after the Costa Rica game, a match against Belgium. The friendly took place in Brussels and a proper location and setting to give Kljestan a run out against an attack-minded side, where his counterattacking distribution could have come in handy. Kljestan was then subsequently not called in for two other friendlies on European soil, remaining on the periphery despite his club form.
That has not stopped him from continuing to churn out quality performances for Anderlecht. Although his four goals this season are noteworthy, it is not so much the scoring production that matters. It is his more discerning eye, improved passing and overall facilitating abilities that have him a fixture in the Anderlecht XI and a candidate to wear the U.S. shirt again.
Kljestan's performance last weekend included a well-taken free kick that wound up in the back of the net. The slick set piece was the latest sign of his growing confidence and expanded role for a club that is poised for a run in the UEFA Europa League knockout rounds after being the only team to sweep through the six-game group stage with a maximum 18 points.
"We've been working on free kicks, set pieces for the past few weeks," Kljestan said in a postgame video interview on Anderlecht's website. "It's a shot I've practiced for a long time, and they said that if the ball is 25 meters or so out I should shoot it. So I looked at the bench and (Anderlecht assistant coach Besnik Hasi) said take it and (Anderlecht midfielder Lucas) Biglia told me to take it also, so there was no doubt in my mind."
Kljestan is a far different player now than he was when he received the bulk of his 34 U.S. caps. At the end of the day, Klinsmann does not have to subscribe to the blind résumé method, and perhaps he has already made up his mind based on past reputation and performances that Kljestan does not fit into his formation. Leaving all preconceived biases aside, though, maybe it's worth rewarding the in-form Kljestan, someone who fits the bill and U.S. void as a technical, playmaking central midfielder with an attacking eye, with another call-up for the Feb. 29 friendly against Italy.
Kljestan was not the only American goal scorer this week, as Clint Dempsey added another tally to his single-season career-high with a mid-week strike against West Brom. A couple Americans also figured into a pair of penalty decisions, with DaMarcus Beasley drawing a penalty and Oguchi Onyewu conceding one in another busy week for Americans playing abroad. Here's how they all fared (season statistics encompass all competitions):
Clint Dempsey, M, Fulham -- Started, played 90 minutes and scored Fulham's goal in the club's 1-1 draw with West Brom on Wednesday. Dempsey received a pass in the area from Bryan Ruiz, turned and fired a right-footed shot toward the far post to put Fulham ahead. He also had one goal waved off for his being offside, and he missed a golden chance at finding a late winner when he skied an open header off a corner kick over the bar. Dempsey also started and played 90 minutes in Fulham's 3-0 loss to Manchester City on Saturday. SEASON: 33 games, 33 starts, 16 goals
Landon Donovan, M/F, Everton -- Started, played 90 minutes and assisted on a goal in Everton's 1-0 victory over Manchester City on Tuesday. Donovan touched a short pass to Darron Gibson inside the area, and the former Manchester United man connected for the winner against the league leaders. Donovan also started and played 90 minutes in Everton's 1-1 draw with Wigan Athletic on Saturday. With his assist to Gibson, Donovan has now had a hand in six of the nine goals Everton has scored since he joined the club on loan from the Los Angeles Galaxy. SEASON: 8 games, 8 starts
Brad Friedel, GK, Tottenham -- Started, played 90 minutes and made two saves in Tottenham's 3-1 victory over Wigan Athletic on Tuesday. Friedel also started, played 90 minutes, made four saves and earned the clean sheet in Tottenham's 0-0 draw with Liverpool on Monday. SEASON: 23 games, 23 starts, 87 saves, 24 goals allowed, 9 clean sheets
Brad Guzan, GK, Aston Villa -- In the 18, did not play in Villa's 2-2 draw with Queens Park Rangers on Wednesday. Guzan was also in the 18 but did not play in Villa's 2-1 loss to Newcastle on Sunday. SEASON: 9 games, 8 starts, 30 saves, 8 goals allowed, 2 clean sheets
Marcus Hahnemann, GK, Everton -- Not in the 18 for Everton's 1-0 victory over Manchester City on Tuesday or for Everton's 1-1 draw with Wigan Athletic on Saturday. SEASON: 0 games
Tim Howard, GK, Everton -- Started, played 90 minutes, made three saves and earned the clean sheet in Everton's 1-0 victory over Manchester City on Tuesday. Howard also started, played 90 minutes and made two saves in Everton's 1-1 draw with Wigan Athletic on Saturday. Howard had the misfortune of having a deflected cross take an awful hop and wrong-foot him while trying to make a play on the ball at the goalmouth, resulting in Wigan's score. SEASON: 26 games, 26 starts, 60 saves, 27 goals allowed, 6 clean sheets
Eric Lichaj, D, Aston Villa -- In the 18, did not play in Villa's 2-2 draw with Queens Park Rangers on Wednesday. Lichaj was also in the 18 but did not play in Villa's 2-1 loss to Newcastle on Sunday. SEASON: 1 game, 1 start, 1 goal
Tim Ream, D, Bolton -- Not in the 18 for Bolton's 0-0 draw with Arsenal on Wednesday or for Bolton's 2-0 loss to Norwich City on Saturday. Ream was due to arrive in England the night before the Norwich City match, according to reports from England, and therefore was not ready to slide into manager Owen Coyle's lineup. SEASON: 0 games
Zak Whitbread, D, Norwich City -- Started, played 90 minutes in Norwich City's 3-0 loss to Sunderland on Wednesday. Whitbread also started and played 40 minutes in Norwich City's 2-0 victory over Bolton on Saturday. Whitbread exited with a hamstring injury, the latest in a line of knocks over the course of his career. It is unclear how much time Whitbread will need to miss. SEASON: 15 games, 15 starts
Conor Doyle, F, Derby County -- Not in the 18 for Derby County's 3-2 loss to Barnsley on Tuesday. Derby County's game against Nottingham Forest slated for Sunday was postponed because of safety concerns regarding the roads around Pride Park caused by snow and freezing temperatures. SEASON: 5 games, 1 start
Robbie Findley, F, Nottingham Forest -- Not in the 18 for Nottingham Forest's 2-0 loss to Burnley on Tuesday. Nottingham Forest's match against Derby County slated for Sunday was postponed. SEASON: 22 games, 13 starts, 5 goals
George John, D, West Ham -- Not in the 18 for West Ham's 5-1 loss to Ipswich Town on Tuesday or for West Ham's 2-1 victory over Millwall on Saturday. SEASON: 0 games
Daniel Potts, D, West Ham -- Not in the 18 for West Ham's 5-1 loss to Ipswich Town on Tuesday or for West Ham's 2-1 victory over Millwall on Saturday. SEASON: 4 games, 4 starts
Robbie Rogers, M, Leeds United -- Not in the 18 for Leeds' 4-1 loss to Birmingham City on Tuesday. Rogers was in the 18 but did not play in Leeds' 3-0 victory over Bristol City on Saturday. SEASON: 0 games
Jonathan Spector, M/D, Birmingham City -- Started, played 90 minutes and picked up a yellow card in Birmingham City's 4-1 victory over Leeds United on Tuesday. Spector also started and played 90 minutes in Birmingham's 0-0 draw with Southampton on Saturday. SEASON: 36 games, 36 starts
Mike Grella, F, Brentford -- Brentford's match against Preston North End slated for Saturday was postponed because of a frozen playing field that was deemed unplayable. SEASON: 16 games, 3 starts, 4 goals
Frank Simek, D, Carlisle United -- Started, played 90 minutes in Carlisle's 2-1 victory over Chesterfield on Saturday. SEASON: 7 games, 7 starts
Anton Peterlin, M, Walsall -- Started, played 61 minutes in Walsall's 1-0 loss to Notts County on Tuesday. Walsall's match against Scunthorpe United slated for Saturday was postponed because of a frozen playing field. SEASON: 26 games, 20 starts
Jon-Paul Pittman, F, Oxford United -- Oxford's match against Barnet Town slated for Saturday was postponed because of a frozen playing field. SEASON: 17 games, 5 starts, 4 goals (4 games, 1 goal with Crawley Town)
Timmy Chandler, D, FC Nurnberg -- In the 18, came on as a 60th-minute substitute in Nurnberg's 2-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund on Friday. SEASON: 20 games, 20 starts, 1 goal
Steve Cherundolo, D, Hannover 96 -- Started, played 90 minutes and picked up a yellow card in Hannover's 1-0 victory over Hertha Berlin on Saturday. SEASON: 18 games, 17 starts
Joe Gyau, M, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim -- Not in the 18 for Hoffenheim's 2-2 draw with FC Augsburg on Saturday. SEASON: 0 games
Fabian Johnson, D/M, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim -- Started, played 90 minutes in Hoffenheim's 2-2 draw with FC Augsburg on Saturday. SEASON: 19 games, 15 starts, 2 goals
Jermaine Jones, M, FC Schalke 04 -- Not in the 18 for Schalke's 1-1 draw with Mainz 05 on Saturday. SEASON: 16 games, 12 starts
Alfredo Morales, D, Hertha Berlin -- Started, played 90 minutes in Berlin's 1-0 loss to Hannover 96 on Saturday. It was the first start of the season for Morales, a 21-year-old defender who is a candidate for the U.S. Olympic qualifying team and also has Peruvian and German eligibility. SEASON: 4 games, 1 starts
Daniel Williams, D/M, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim -- Started, played 90 minutes in Hoffenheim's 2-2 draw with FC Augsburg on Saturday. SEASON: 17 games, 11 starts (1 game, 1 start with SC Freiburg)
David Yelldell, GK, Bayer Leverkusen -- Not in the 18 for Leverkusen's 2-2 draw with VfB Stuttgart on Saturday. SEASON: 1 game, 1 start, 1 save, 4 goals allowed
Ricardo Clark, M, Eintracht Frankfurt -- Not in the 18 for Frankfurt's 2-1 loss to Eintracht Braunschweig on Sunday. SEASON: 1 game, 1 start
Luis Robles, GK, Karlsruhe -- Not in the 18 for Karlsruhe's 2-1 victory over FC Erzgebirge Aue on Sunday. SEASON: 5 games, 5 starts, 14 saves, 13 goals allowed
Matt Taylor, F, SC Paderborn 07 -- In the 18, did not play in Paderborn's 3-2 victory over Union Berlin on Friday. SEASON: 15 games, 5 starts, 4 goals
Michael Bradley, M, Chievo Verona -- Started, played 90 minutes in Chievo's 2-1 victory over Novara on Thursday. Bradley also started and played 90 minutes in Chievo's 2-1 loss to Parma on Sunday. SEASON: 22 games, 20 starts
Quentin Westberg, GK, Evian Thonon Gaillard -- In the 18, did not play in Evian's 3-1 loss to Paris-St. Germain on Saturday. SEASON: 3 games, 3 starts, 8 saves, 3 goals allowed, 1 clean sheet
Jozy Altidore, F, AZ Alkmaar -- In the 18, came on as a 77th-minute substitute in AZ's 2-1 victory over Gelders VVV in the quarterfinals of the KNVB Beker (Dutch Cup) on Wednesday. AZ's match against ADO Den Haag scheduled for Saturday was postponed because of a frozen field. The match is slated to be played on Wednesday instead. SEASON: 30 games, 22 starts, 9 goals
Oguchi Onyewu, D, Sporting Lisbon -- Started and was sent off in the 53rd minute for picking up his second yellow card in Sporting's 1-0 loss to Gil Vicente in the final group game of the League Cup on Saturday. Onyewu ran shoulder-to-shoulder with Hugo Vieira and delivered a bit of a hip check while lunging for the ball just inside the area (replays show the foul could have been whistled for happening just outside the box), leading to a 54th-minute penalty kick that was converted for the game's only goal. Sporting failed to win the group as a result of the loss and is eliminated from the competition. SEASON: 24 games, 24 starts, 5 goals
Mikkel Diskerud, M, KAA Gent -- In the 18, did not play in Gent's 3-2 victory over OH Leuven on Saturday. Diskerud was sent on loan from cash-strapped Stabaek in his native Norway to Gent for the remainder of the season, at which point the Belgian club has an option to purchase his contract outright. SEASON: 0 games
Sacha Kljestan, M, RSC Anderlecht -- Started, played 90 minutes and scored a 36th-minute goal in Anderlecht's 4-2 victory over Genk on Sunday. Kljestan delivered a 30-yard free kick that dipped over the wall, swerved, stayed low and beat the wrong-footed goalkeeper inside the right post to snap a 1-1 draw at the time. SEASON: 31 games, 31 starts, 4 goals
Alejandro Bedoya, M, Rangers FC -- Not in the 18 for Rangers' 2-0 loss to Dundee United in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup on Sunday. SEASON: 25 games, 19 starts, 4 goals (16 games, 15 starts, 4 goals with Orebro SK)
Carlos Bocanegra, D, Rangers FC -- Started, played 90 minutes in Rangers' 2-0 loss to Dundee United in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup on Sunday. SEASON: 25 games, 25 starts, 3 goals (1 game, 1 start with St. Etienne)
Dominic Cervi, GK, Celtic -- Not in the 18 for Celtic's 2-0 victory over Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup on Saturday. SEASON: 7 games, 7 starts, 37 saves, 8 goals allowed, 2 clean sheets (all with Greenock Morton)
Maurice Edu, M, Rangers FC -- Started, played 90 minutes and picked up a yellow card in Rangers' 2-0 loss to Dundee United in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup on Sunday. SEASON: 30 games, 28 starts, 3 goals
DaMarcus Beasley, M, Puebla -- Started, played 55 minutes in Puebla's 1-1 draw with Tijuana on Sunday. Beasley drew a foul on a run inside the area that led to a penalty kick, which was converted for Puebla's goal. SEASON: 5 games, 4 starts, 1 goal
Jonathan Bornstein, D, Tigres UANL -- Started, played 90 minutes in Tigres' 2-2 draw with Union Espanola in the second leg of their Copa Libertadores preliminary round tie on Thursday. Tigres was eliminated from the tournament on a 3-2 aggregate. Bornstein was in the 18 but did not play in Tigres' 1-0 victory over Club America in league play on Sunday. SEASON: 2 games, 2 starts
Edgar Castillo, D, Tijuana -- Started, played 90 minutes in Tijuana's 1-1 draw with Puebla on Sunday. Castillo assisted on Tijuana's goal, carrying the ball up the field before slotting a low, short-range pass to goal-scorer Duvier Riascos at the edge of the area. SEASON: 5 games, 5 starts
Joe Corona, M/F, Tijuana -- Started, played 69 minutes in Tijuana's 1-1 draw with Puebla on Sunday. SEASON: 4 games, 1 start
Michael Orozco Fiscal, D, San Luis -- Started, played 62 minutes in San Luis' 3-0 loss to Monterrey on Saturday. SEASON: 5 games, 5 starts
Greg Garza, D/M, Tijuana -- Not in the 18 for Tijuana's 1-1 draw with Puebla on Sunday. SEASON: 1 game
Herculez Gomez, F, Santos Laguna -- In the 18, came on as a 76th-minute substitute in Santos Laguna's 2-1 victory over Pumas UNAM on Saturday. SEASON: 3 games
Sonny Guadarrama, M, Atlante -- Not in the 18 for Atlante's 3-2 victory over Queretaro on Saturday. SEASON: 1 game
Jose Francisco Torres, M, Pachuca -- Started, played 90 minutes in Pachuca's 4-3 victory over Toluca on Sunday. Pachuca trailed, 3-0, after 16 minutes before scoring four unanswered goals, capped by a 90th-minute penalty kick. SEASON: 5 games, 5 starts