Three good questions for: U.S. midfielder Sacha Kljestan

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Sacha Kljestan has excelled at Anderlecht, one of the big boys of Belgian soccer. So his lack of opportunities in Jurgen Klinsmann’s 15 months in charge had become one of the real head-scratchers for U.S. soccer supporters, and frequently a frustrating one.

Kljestan did get his latest shot last week – and the southern California native absolutely made the most of it, helping to pep up the attack over the final 15 minutes of Friday’s win over Antigua and Barbuda. The 27-year-old midfielder even helped contribute to Eddie Johnson’s game-winning goal.

I talked to Kljestan on Monday from Livestrong Sporting Park about pressure and seizing opportunities:

 

Given your limited chances so far under Jurgen Klinsmann, do you feel added pressure to make the most of your opportunities when you do arrive into a camp or get in a match in a U.S. shirt?

You know, we want to be successful. I don’t think I feel so much pressure. I think as a team, we feel the pressure of the important games. Personally, I just want to make the most of my opportunity. If given the chance to start (Tuesday), I hope I can give a full 90 minutes. In Antigua, I had 12 minutes and had to make the most of it, and I think I did.

“Jurgen has given me an opportunity to help the team, and in an important time for the team, as well. So, I’m just trying to do my best, play with urgency and help the team be a little more creative with the ball.”

What did you hope to contribute to that game in Antigua, and did you like how it all turned out?

“We could tell from the bench it was going to be a hard game. They had a lot of guys behind the ball, they fought really hard, the field didn’t really help us much. To get in there, he [Jurgen Klinsmann] just told me to play quickly, play with urgency, try to get things in front of the goal, and obviously to play forward, don’t play square balls or play backward. I think I tried to play forward as much as I could. To be involved in the last goal was nice. I [also] got a good shot. I think I added a few things a few things to the attack in the last 15 minutes.”

U.S. assistant Andreas Herzog was in the stands to watch you and Anderlecht play in Champions League against Malaga, and your performance in that contest apparently sealed the choice to call you for these matches. Are you guys generally aware of instances where Klinsmann or one of his assistants will be in the stands, and does that add some pressure.

I spoke to Andy [Herzog] before the game, a few days prior. He let me know he was coming and wished me all success, and then we spoke after the game as well.

“It’s a Champions League match, so there’s always pressure. It was our first Champions League game at home, I think, in 6 or 7 years for Anderlecht. So it was a special night. Those European night are special regardless of he’s watching or not.”

CONCACAF: USMNT, Trinidad & Tobago seek first points of Hexagonal

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Through two rounds of play in the Hexagonal, everything has gone according to plan for Mexico and Costa Rica.

Not so much though for the U.S. Men’s National Team.

[ MORE: Shorthanded USMNT hosts Honduras as WCQ resumes ]

While Los Ticos and El Tri currently sit in the top two positions of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, the U.S. is left at the bottom and faces a difficult match against Honduras when play resumes on Friday night.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ahead of Honduras match ]

Mexico and Costa Rica will face off at the Estadio Azteca in the second of Friday’s three slated qualifiers, and while both nations surely expect to reach the World Cup in Russia, both CONCACAF heavyweights have the opportunity to put their stamp on the group.

For Costa Rica, a victory could potentially open up a five-point gap over El Tri, while a win for Mexico would bring Juan Carlos Osorio’s side the opportunity leap over their Central American foes.

Friday’s action will kick off at 7 p.m. though when third place Panama travels to Trinidad & Tobago, who seeks its first points of the Hex. Trinidad will be led by captain Kenwyne Jones of Atlanta United as well as Minnesota United midfielder Kevin Molino, with the duo scoring a combined 39 international goals for the Soca Warriors.

Below is the schedule and current table ahead of Friday’s CONCACAF matches as the region turns its attention to Matchday 3 of the Hexagonal.


Trinidad & Tobago vs. Panama — 7 p.m. ET

Mexico vs. Costa Rica — 9:50 p.m. ET

USMNT vs. Honduras — 10:30 p.m. ET (PREVIEW)


1. Costa Rica — 2-0-0 — 6 pts.
2. Mexico — 1-1-0 — 4 pts.
3. Panama — 1-1-0 — 4 pts.
4. Honduras — 1-0-1 — 3 pts.
5. Trinidad & Tobago — 0-0-2 — 0 pts.
6. USMNT — 0-0-2 — 0 pts.

Spurs allowed to play all home matches at Wembley next season

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Tottenham was granted the right to play all of its home matches at Wembley Stadium for the 2017/18 season, but the club must now make a decision whether or not to remain at White Hart Lane for another year.

[ MORE: Man City weighing massive offer for Milan’s Donnarumma ]

The club’s application was granted on Thursday by Brent Council’s planning committee, giving Spurs the option to move into Wembley next season for all 27 home Premier League fixtures.

Spurs must decide if it will go ahead with that move though by March 31.

Tottenham continues to play at White Hart Lane while its new stadium, located next door to its current venue, is being constructed. The current plan is that the new venue will be open ahead of the 2019/2020 campaign, but the club is said to be weighing all of its options in the event that it could be ready for the 2018/19 season.

Prosecutors question Beckenbauer in World Cup fraud case

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BERN, Switzerland (AP) Swiss authorities say prosecutors have questioned Germany soccer great Franz Beckenbauer in their ongoing World Cup fraud case.

[ MORE: Shorthanded USMNT looks to build momentum vs. Honduras ]

Criminal proceedings against Beckenbauer and three other German members of the 2006 World Cup organizing committee were opened in 2015. The four are suspected of fraud, money laundering, criminal mismanagement, and misappropriation relating to a payment of 6.7 million euros ($7 million) to FIFA in 2005.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ahead of Honduras WCQ ]

The Swiss attorney general’s office said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday that federal prosecutors questioned Beckenbauer earlier in the day in Bern, adding that “Beckenbauer was cooperative.”

Beckenbauer’s home in Austria was raided last year for evidence on behalf of Swiss federal prosecutors investigating corruption linked to FIFA.

Report: Man City launching massive bid for AC Milan’s Donnarumma

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Gianluigi Donnarumma has quickly established himself as the best young goalkeeper in European soccer, and AC Milan won’t be letting the 18-year-old go without a pretty penny in return.

[ MORE: Schedule, preview for UEFA World Cup qualifying ]

According to Sky Sport Italia, Manchester City is preparing a massive bid in the range of $130 to $160 million to acquire the AC Milan shot-stopper as the English side’s goalkeeping situation is still unsettled.

The Citizens have failed to hunker down at the goalkeeper position this season despite spending big to bring in Barcelona’s Claudio Bravo, who has underperformed. Willy Caballero has also been shaky at times for the English giants, while on-loan keeper Joe Hart will almost certainly move on from the club over the summer.

Donnarumma is currently second in Serie A in saves (110), trailing only Crotone’s Alex Cordaz, who has stopped two more shots.

Since turning professional in 2015, Donnarumma has quickly enjoyed his rise through Italian football for both AC Milan and with the national team. After previously featuring for the Under-15, U-17 and U-21 sides, Donnarumma has established himself as the surefire replacement for Gianluigi Buffon once he retires from the international game.