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.”

Day Six: All the action from the U20 World Cup

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For the second consecutive tournament, the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team is poised to qualify for the knockout stages of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup.

[ MORE: U-20 World Cup latest

In its second match of this year’s edition in South Korea, the U.S. earned an important three points in a 1-0 victory over Senegal, while its main rivals Ecuador fell, 2-1 to Saudi Arabia. The win shot the U.S. up to first place in Group F with four points while Senegal and Saudi Arabia sit just below with three points. Ecuador occupies the final spot in the group with one point through two games.

Seventeen-year-old Josh Sargent scored for the second straight game and the defensive unit anchored by Erik Palmer-Brown and Cameron Carter-Vickers in central defense held tight to earn the U.S. a clean sheet. The U.S. finishes up the group stage on Sunday against Saudi Arabia.

In Group E action, France thrashed Vietnam 4-0 and New Zealand defeated Honduras 3-1.

Click on the link above for all the latest news from the U-20 World Cup, while below are video highlights from Thursday’s four games in Groups E and F.

Group E

USA 1, Senegal 0

Saudi Arabia 2, Ecuador 1

Group F

France 4, Vietnam 0

New Zealand 3, Honduras 1

Rooney left off England squad for matches with Scotland, France

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This summer could be the start of a new era with the England National Team.

England and Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney was left out of Gareth Southgate‘s 25-man squad ahead of a pair of international matches in June. England faces Scotland on June 10 in a World Cup qualifier at Hampden Park before traveling to the Stade de France three days later for a friendly match with Les Blues.

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While Rooney didn’t make the squad, his Manchester United teammate Marcus Rashford did make the team, with Southgate preferring him to be with the senior squad instead of play for England’s Under-21s at the UEFA Under-21 Championship this June in Poland.

“He’s in the senior squad on merit, and has been for a year,” Southgate said to FA.com. “He had one game with the Under-21s when I was there in September and he was outstanding that day, but he’s not really been a part of the Under-21 squad. His performances warrant him being in the senior squad.”

Other notable inclusions in the squad are Tottenham right back Kieran Trippier, who is in line for his first senior international cap, as well as 34-year-old Sunderland forward Jermain Defoe, coming off back-to-back Premier League seasons with 15 league goals.

If Rooney’s time with the Three Lions is over, it would mark a true changing of the guard in the England squad. Rooney, who has 119 caps and is England’s all-time leading goal scorer with 53 goals, made his debut in 2003 in a friendly match against Australia, at the time becoming the youngest player to make his England debut at the age of 17. The record was broken by Theo Walcott.

Rooney came to prominence with the Three Lions with a burst in Euro 2004 in Portugal, leading England to the quarterfinals. Perhaps England could have gone farther if Rooney hadn’t broken a bone in his foot and had to limp off in the first half of England’s ouster against Portugal.

Since then, it’s been a mixed bag for Rooney. While he’s scored bags of goals, he’s never really lived up to the hype in the big tournaments.

Under his watch, England’s never made it past the quarterfinals in either the World Cup or European Championships and he’s been part of big disappointments, including failing to qualify for Euro 2008 and getting bounced by Iceland in Euro 2016. England also failed to make it out of the group stage at the last World Cup.

It’s possible that Southgate left Rooney off the squad purely based on form as Defoe was included, but it could be a sign of things to come, which is a chance for younger players like John Stones, Alli and Kane to take leadership positions within the team.

Stream Live: USA takes on Senegal at U20 World Cup

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The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team is halfway home in its second game of the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup group stage, holding a 1-0 lead over Senegal after Josh Sargent’s left-footed blast.

[ LIVE: USA U-20 vs. Senegal ] 

Tab Ramos’ side came back to draw Ecuador 3-3 in a wild first game of the tournament but after losing central midfielder Gedion Zelalem, holding midfielder Derrick Jones has moved into the starting lineup and provided more stability in the center of the park.

Below you can watch a replay of Sargent’s first-half goal and above is a link to stream the U.S. game live via Telemundo Deportes.

LAFC makes plan for training complex east of downtown

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LOS ANGELES (AP) The MLS expansion Los Angeles Football Club plans to spend $30 million to build a training complex on the campus of Cal State LA.

LAFC revealed its proposal Wednesday after the plans were approved by the California State University Board of Trustees.

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LAFC will renovate the university’s stadium field while constructing a complex to house its players, staff and coaches, along with the LAFC Academy youth development team.

The team’s two-story training building will be financed entirely by LAFC’s deep-pocketed ownership group. LAFC also committed to donate $1.5 million to the university.

The complex will be located on the north campus of Cal State LA, just 10 miles east of Banc of California Stadium. LAFC will begin MLS play in its under-construction downtown arena in March.