Kljestan on USMNT: Red Bulls form, Klinsmann feedback has me 'at ease'

Sacha Kljestan at USMNT camp, August 30, 2016

MIAMI – The people spoke – and it turned out they were right.

After months of clamoring by New York Red Bulls and MLS diehards, US men’s national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann called up Sacha Kljestan this past September. Ahead of two crucial World Cup Qualifying matches, this would mark the Red Bulls midfielder’s return to international play for the first time in two-and-a-half years.

Kljestan clearly showed up hungry, notching a goal and two assists against St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Sept. 2, and another goal against Trinidad & Tobago on Sept. 6. Soon, too, he would notch another call-up. The best mustache in the domestic game showed up on a muggy Miami Monday morning, as Klinsmann’s latest 23-man squad convened for training ahead of this Friday’s historic friendly against Cuba, in Havana (4 pm ET, ESPN2, UniMás).

But there’s no way he’s going to let even one spark of his fire die, he said.

“I think I had a good opportunity last camp to make my case, and I think I did a pretty good job of that,” he said on Monday. “Now it’s just about continuing to establish myself every time I get a chance. Hopefully these couple of [upcoming friendly] games go well, and hopefully they lead into two very big games in November.”

But it’s not just his performance during the last two international matches that he thinks has caught Klinsmann’s eye, Kljestan said. The current MLS leader in assists said he was sure his play with the Red Bulls has made the difference.

“I think that’s a big reason why I’m here, because I’ve become a leader on my team and become an important player on the Red Bulls, and we’ve had a very good couple of seasons now,” he said. “You have your job at your club to make your team better, to be an impact player, and I think I’ve done that.”

The next step, then, is to make an impact in Havana, and then at RFK Stadium on Oct. 11 vs. New Zealand (8 pm ET, UniMás). “There’s been some very positive feedback from Jurgen, which always makes you feel a little more confident going forward,” he said. “Now I guess I kind of have that part at ease in my brain. I can kind of just play free every game and just do my best to try to help the Red Bulls win a championship, and then, every so often, get brought in here to help us win and try to help us qualify for the World Cup.”