101013_kljestansacha_isi_usmntgb052813105 Greg Bartram/isiphotos.com
In the mix

Kljestan Will Grab an Opportunity "By the Throat"

He looks calm and collected while stretching, but there he is pondering his latest chance. The central midfielder might get a chance on Friday to show off his stuff. Can he capitalize?
BY Jon Arnold Posted
October 10, 2013
11:30 AM
KANSAS CITY, Mo.—Sacha Kljestan doesn't know if he'll start Friday against Jamaica or Tuesday against Panama or even play in either World Cup qualifier, but he does know what will happen if he gets an opportunity.

"I've certainly been waiting for a chance, I hope one comes and when it comes I'm going to grab it by the throat and not let go," he said after the United States' open training session Wednesday.

With Michael Bradley injured, Jurgen Klinsmann has a decision to make in central midfield. The performance of the replacement or replacements could go a long way toward determining who ends up at the World Cup in 2014. Jermaine Jones has already solidified a position and will likely get the starting nod in the qualifiers.

That leaves Kljestan, Kyle Beckerman, and Mix Diskerud, who all have played in the role recently. Kljestan has been in the national team picture for years while Beckerman, another veteran, filled in well for Bradley in the Stars and Stripes' 2-0 win against Mexico last month. Diskerud made his official senior debut during the Gold Cup after playing for the U.S. at the youth level and in friendlies.

Both Diskerud and Kljestan were modest but confident Wednesday, Diskerud calling his Gold Cup campaign good before glancing at the assembled media members and making an addendum. Kjlestan too was hesitant to heap too much praise upon himself.

"It's difficult to talk about myself, but," the Anderlecht midfielder said before trailing off. "Well, first and foremost you don't spend every day with the national team, but the times that I do come in I think I bring a positive influence to the team, positive attitude when I'm in."

The Southern California native also said while he wished he could still be considered a younger guy, he's transitioned into a leadership role, becoming the vice captain at his club and serving as a sounding board for younger players in national camp.

"On a daily basis I'm a leader in my team, so I hope to bring those qualities into the national team as well," he said.

But he's also aware that leadership alone won't get him a spot in South America. How can he make sure he gets into the 23-man roster?

"There's not much time left, but any chance I get in a game I'm going to do my best," he said. "I think I certainly showed myself well against Bosnia when I came off the bench and I helped the team. Hopefully I can say the same after these next two games. I don't know if I'll start or if I'll play, but if I get a chance just do my best and try to be focused all the time."

He faces stiff competition—veteran DaMarcus Beasley called this the deepest he's ever seen the American team in more than a decade of being involved—and that's good for opportunities' sake. Otherwise, it's going to need a new throat.

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