Three goals in four games so far for Sacha Kljestan in Belgium.

Is this the year of Sacha Kljestan on U.S. national team?


It might be a tad early to proclaim 2013 as “The Year of Sacha Kljestan.” But the man sure is finishing 2012 with a mighty Belgian bang!

Anderlecht won again yesterday and now finds itself a full eight points in the lead of the 16-team Jupiler League. Kljestan went all 90 minutes in a 4-1 win over visiting Lierse. That’s 10 wins in a row for Anderlecht, which is also unbeaten in 15 consecutive league matches at home.

It may have seemed like U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann had little use for the California native previously; it has always been a little hard to define Kljestan’s best role, going all the way back to his Chivas USA days under Preki, and that has probably hurt the versatile midfielder along the way.

But he kept a good attitude about it all, and a glance at recent months doesn’t look so bad when considering Kljestan’s place in the international game. Kljestan appeared in each of the Americans’ last three matches, including two critical World Cup qualifiers and the fashionable 2-2 draw with Russia for finish out 2012, Klinsmann’s first full year in charge.

He may already be moving in front of Maurice Edu in the order of U.S. central midfielder (considering Edu’s alarming lack of status at Stoke City, where he has become a forgotten man.) And Kljestan may have lapped Jose Torres in the field, even if the two are fairly different players.

Landon Donovan’s status has something to say about where Kljestan lands in the order, as well. (On the other hand, he’ll need to peak over his shoulder occasionally to monitor the progress of Mix Diskerud, who appears to be coming up fast.)

Either way, being a starter for the runaway leaders of a mid-tier European league (Belgium) isn’t a bad place to launch for 2013.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
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Statement from suspended UEFA President Michel Platini:

Early this afternoon, I was informed of the FIFA ethics committee’s decision to impose on me a provisional 90-day suspension with immediate effect. That decision, which I will of course contest in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time, had already been the subject of a deliberate leak, and I gave my opinion on that earlier in the day.

I reject all of the allegations that have been made against me, which are based on mere semblances and are astonishingly vague. Indeed, the wording of those allegations merely states that a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics “seems to have been committed” and that a decision on the substance of the matter cannot be taken immediately.

Despite the farcical nature of these events, I refuse to believe that this is a political decision taken in haste in order to taint a lifelong devotee of the game or crush my candidacy for the FIFA presidency.

I want everyone to know my state of mind: more than a sense of injustice or a desire for revenge, I am driven by a profound feeling of staunch defiance. I am more determined than ever to defend myself before the relevant judicial bodies.

I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I will devote myself to ensuring that my good faith prevails. I have received numerous messages of support today from UEFA’s member associations and the other confederations encouraging me to continue my work serving football’s interests. Nothing will make me give up on that commitment.