Sacha Kljestan can play soccer at an international level. He can hold his own, at very least.
The question then about Kljestan, a sure bubble player where the U.S. roster for next year’s World Cup goes, becomes this: can he make a difference in international soccer?
Or, can he provide adequate cover at a position or two, a la Geoff Cameron? (Cameron isn’t a starter on Jurgen Klinsmann’s overall depth chart, but he’s probably a second or third backup at three spots, and that makes him almost as valuable as some of the starters in the larger roster picture.)
U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann has talked about how Kljestan had to patrol a less familiar precinct last week in that uneventful night in Scotland. The manager offered a candid, balanced assessment, one summed up quite nicely when Klinsmann said the Anderlecht man “did OK.”
So … might it not be prudent to actually assign Kljestan a role in which he is more familiar?
Would it be worthwhile to tweak the midfield just a little, if only to see how Kljestan might work when asked to do a bit more screening and tackling, just a little less playmaking and linking with a striker? Perhaps play Michael Bradley deeper, thus allowing Kljestan to perform in the two-way, linking role the Roma man has made his own. Clearly, that’s Bradley’s spot in a U.S. shirt; No one comes close in terms of what Bradley does in terms of passing, possession, cover, midfield orchestration, playmaking from deep areas, etc.
But what if Bradley gets hurt? When last forced to perform without its midfield general, Jermaine Jones moved forward into the linking role of the 4-3-3, with Kyle Beckerman sitting behind him.
Next time out, still without Bradley, Jones and Mix Diskerud played centrally in a slightly different configuration, a pretty straight-forward 4-4-2.
Or, assign the screening role to Kljestan, with Bradley doing the usual two-way work (and covering if Kljestan gets drawn out of position, the way he covers so faithfully when Jones gets stretched, which happens a few times a night.)
Klinsmann’s choice here is really a bigger one. It’s about priorities at this point. Is he more concerned with picking those last four or five roster spots? In that case, he should assign Kljestan a role he knows well from Belgium and Champions Leagues matches.
Or is it about continuing to polish up the shape and individual combinations, using as many players in possible in their optimum positions?