Sacha Kljestan Making A Strong Case For Return To USMNT

On Sunday afternoon, with an assist on Felipe’s goal against DC United, Sacha Kljestan cemented his place in Red Bull New York franchise history. His 15th helper of the year is the high water mark for assists in an MLS season during the club’s 21-year history. What’s even more incredible is that he’s on pace to demolish Thierry Henry’s old record as the club still has eight MLS matches to play.

The midfielder’s contributions are not only limited to the scoresheet. He has become a vital component of the reigning Supporters’ Shield winner’s formation as they look to secure their place in the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs. Slotted into the center attacking midfield role, the Southern California native has been the single consistent contributor to the club’s inconsistent attack this season. His importance was made abundantly clear during last week’s CONCACAF Champions League match in El Salvador. With his squad down 1-0 in the 61st minute, manager Jesse Marsch inserted Kljestan into the struggling lineup. His presence made an instant impact as the Red Bulls wrestled control of the match, eventually leading to Omer Damari’s tying goal in the 71st minute, on which Kljestan assisted.

At one point in his career, the Seaton Hall alumnus was a mainstay in the U.S. Men’s National Team midfield. Since 2007, he has made 46 appearances wearing the Stars and Stripes, scoring four goals and assisting on four more in those matches. He impressed manager Jurgen Klinsmann enough to make his final 23-man squad for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. However, inexplicably, despite his success, Kljestan was not called up for the 2014 World Cup, nor was he called up for this summer’s Copa America.  In fact, he hasn’t been selected by Klinsmann to represent his country since a friendly in Ukraine in March of 2014.

The next round of CONCACAF World Cup 2018 qualifiers are set for next week and Klinsmann has decisions to make regarding the direction of the national team. For the 2014 World Cup, he selected an experienced crop of players to take on the world’s best. However, for the Copa America he opted for more youth than he has in the past. At 30 years old, Kljestan certainly doesn’t fit the mold of a “youth movement,” but it will be difficult for Klinsmann to ignore his dominant run-of-form. 

With an eye towards 2018 in Russia, the German legend will have even moredifficult decisions to make. It’s very possible that USMNT mainstays Jermaine Jones (36 in 2018) and Kyle Beckerman (36 at 2018) will be unable to compete at the international level during the next World Cup. Should Klinsmann decide to return to his experienced roster, or even add experience to an otherwise young one, Kljestan is certainly making the case to be considered.