A few of us saw a little something in Sacha Kljestan’s evening in Glasgow, as the Anderlecht man was assigned the “Dempsey” role, playing ahead of two midfielders and behind striker Jozy Altidore in the match against Scotland.
His ratings from some of the respected, uh, “ratings agencies,” weren’t bad. The New York Times, Soccer America, and ESPN.com all gave Kljestan a grade that was somewhere between “not bad” and “pretty good.”
But the only gradebook that really counts, as we know, belongs to Jurgen Klinsmann; the U.S. manager will make the career-defining choices next May, assigning 23 men to his World Cup roster for a trip into Brazil. And, well … Klinsmann didn’t sound overly impressed.
He did mention that Kljestan was in a less familiar role, playing higher up the field than he typically does for Anderlecht in Belgium. That said …
He did OK, but it was tricky for him because we wanted him to play in between their two lines, the back line and the midfield line, and to find him in those spaces closer to Jozy, rather than further back. His instinct tells him to drop a little deeper because that’s what he does at Anderlecht, and then suddenly we had three midfielders in the same area with Jermaine [Jones], Michael [Bradley] and Sacha. That’s not what we wanted. We wanted to find people between their two lines of four, so it was a bit tricky for him.”
Thing is, tough role or no, Kljestan is in a position, like a few others, where he needs to make an impression – even if that means making a gourmet meal from leftovers. At seven months until the World Cup, it is what it is at this point.
Meanwhile, Klinsmann was more positive in his assessments of Brek Shea and Aron Johannsson, who helped their cases for Brazilian roster placement.
Johannsson keeps moving up, perhaps already having lapped Herculez Gomez, who fell behind initially due to some summer injury trouble. Shea helps himself every time he gets the ball, points himself forward and tells himself “Go!” Thing is, the United States has so little of that, so Shea provides a real change of pace. When a certain problem needs solving, he’s the only solution on this roster.
For everything that Klinsmann said about Shea and Johannsson, read his post-game comments here.