KLJESTAN FEELING NO PRESSURE
After a less than impressive start to the MLS season, Sacha Kljestan seems to have found his footing in recent weeks and his improved play has not gone unnoticed by former coach Bob Bradley.
The Chivas USA midfielder has looked more comfortable on the ball in recent weeks, a run of good play that has not gone unnoticed by former coach Bob Bradley and has led to a spot on the 30-man preliminary World Cup roster.
"It's been tough, it's been a lot of hard work, everyone is here to compete obviously for a few remaining spots on the team." Kljestan told YA about his experience thus far at the U.S. men's national team training camp in Princeton, New Jersey. "I've been trying to work real hard, doing well on the fitness, and trying to prove to the coaching staff that I'm a positive on the team."
Nowhere, it seems, is the competition as tough as in the center of midfield where the 24-year old Kljestan often plays, and where the Americans enjoy a particularly deep talent pool.
With Michael Bradley likely a lock in the middle and Ricardo Clark and Maurice Edu jockeying for a spot beside the coach's offspring in addition to Jose Francisco Torres and Benny Feilhaber, Kljestan knows it will be difficult to break into the final 23, but he is keeping things in perspective.
"I feel that I deserved it and I worked hard to earn [the call up]," he noted. "I thought that I'd been having good moments in the past two months or so in the MLS season. I feel very confident and I feel that I've been playing consistently well so you know I was happy to get the call."
Kljestan knows his chances depend on his play, but also on tactics. The absence of Charlie Davies will likely lead Bradley to shuffle his midfield, with some pundits expecting Clint Dempsey or Landon Donovan to move forward.
"I don't know, I think it may depend on some roster or some positional decisions that Bob [Bradley] is going to have to make, obviously if he's bringing an extra defender or one less forward, who knows." Kljestan said of Bradley's strategy. "I'm just trying to do everything in my power to make the decision hard [for Bradley]."
Kljestan enjoys a good understanding with Bradley, with the former Seton Hall stand-out having started his professional career playing for Bradley at Chivas USA in 2006 after getting selected fifth overall in that year's MLS SuperDraft.
The California native has seen Bradley adapt to a new role but despite their history, he doesn't feel he has earned any special treatment from his coach.
"I don't know if it gives me an advantage, but I think [Bradley] has done a good job of adjusting from coaching a club team to coaching a national team," Kljestan explained. "It's much more difficult I think to coach the national team because he has way less time with the players. So he's not really teaching, he's more bringing the team together and getting us to form into a group that plays together, so he's done a very good job."
While Kljestan has accumulated 23 caps since his first game against China in 2007, the 24-year old knows his spot on the roster is far from set in stone.
He made nine appearances in 2009, ranging from a hat-trick against Sweden in January to a second-half red-card against Brazil in the Confederations Cup in South Africa.
He hopes to feature in the friendly against the Czech Republic next Tuesday in East Hartford, Connecticut and impress enough to earn a spot on the World Cup roster.
"I don't feel pressure," Kljestan concluded. "This is my dream, this is what I was born to do. You take this as an opportunity, you take this as a chance. I feel if I make the team, I'm going to take my chance to the most and help the team do well in South Africa."