102312_isi_kljestansacha_usmntjt1012123520 John Todd/isiphotos.com
Americans Abroad

UPDATED: Kljestan, Jones in Champions League Action

Two U.S. midfielders—Anderlecht's Sacha Kljestan and Schalke's Jermaine Jones—will contend for starting spots in today's Champions League group stage competition.
BY John Godfrey Posted
October 24, 2012
5:57 AM
Last season, when Sacha Kljestan was a regular first-team starter for Anderlecht, he barely saw any action for the Jurgen Klinsmann-led United States national team.

Three months into the 2012-13 European campaign, Kljestan has struggled to secure playing time with the Belgian powerhouse but he did earn crucial minutes in the recent World Cup qualifiers against Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala.

Will Kljestan start against Zenit St. Petersburg in today's Group C Champions League contest (noon EST) at Petrovski Stadium? Will he come on as a sub? Or will he just have a really good seat for a really important match? It's impossible to say, but in speaking to Kljestan in Antigua earlier this month it became clear that the Huntington Beach, Calif., native is taking the career twists and turns in stride.

He even acknowledged that he has at times wondered if his U.S. national team career might be over.

"Yeah. After being disappointed the first few times [he was not called up for the national team], I think I came to grips with it," Kljestan said. "If I'm not part of his plans, I'm not part of his plans," he said of Klinsmann.

"I played 35 times for my country and that's a hell of a lot more than many people," he said prior to earning two more caps. "So if that was to be my last game, against Italy, so be it. I'm not going to be sad and cry about my career. I'm proud of my career."

"Having said that, hopefully I'll have a lot more games with the national team."

Judging from Klinsmann's comments about the 6'1" midfielder, more national team appearances would seem to be in the cards.

"I discussed with Sacha that he was always observed by us and he’s done well," Klinsmann said. "We had Andi Herzog go to one of his games when they played Malaga and he did very well. Even though [Anderlecht] lost that game, he played in a way that we wanted to see him play. He was very aggressive. He was very direct. He looked for the vertical balls to play, he didn’t play sideways the whole time and he was pushed forward in order to get shots off himself. We are pleased with the way he’s playing right now and that’s why he’s getting that call.”

Perhaps Kljestan's solid showing in international play will help him win a spot in today's match. After drawing with Milan and losing to Malaga, Anderlecht needs a result to keep pace with the others in its group. Coach John van den Brom will no doubt start his best-available team, and it will be interesting to see if Kljestan makes the list.

One American who is very likely to see Champions League action today: Schalke's Jermaine Jones.

The rugged box-to-box midfielder has played against Arsenal in the Emirates Stadium before, he has loads of experience in European competitions, and he plays with the sort of chippiness that might just throw the Gunners off their game in this Group B contest (2:45 p.m. EST).

``We come to show that we can steal points," Jones said in a press conference. "We have respect for the whole Arsenal team, but we are not scared. Arsenal will try to avenge their last game. Their league position is not that good."

``If we go into the game with the same attitude as against Dortmund," Jones continued, "I think we can get something.''

KLEJSTAN UPDATE: Klejstan begins the match on the Anderlecht bench. No action as the end of the first half approaches.

72' UPDATE: Zenit nets the first goal of the match on a penalty kick. More than three-quarters of the way through and no substitutions for Anderlecht. Klejstan remains on the sidelines.

FULL TIME UPDATE: The final whistle blows without any action for Klejstan. Disappointing day for the American and for Anderlecht, who fall 0-1 to Zenit in Group C action. Let's hope for more out of Herr Jones.

JERMAINE JONES UPDATE: No Jermaine Jones in the Schalke starting lineup.

HALF TIME UPDATE: We're at the midway point of the afternoon Champions League games, and still waiting for the first minutes from an American. No Jones yet, and Schalke is knotted 0-0 with Arsenal.

46' UPDATE: And we're off!! Jermaine Jones to start the second half for Schalke. Let's see if the ASN 100 No. 13 can have an impact.

70' UPDATE: Jones marking Gervinho effectively on a mini-breakaway and Gervinho earns a yellow for diving. Excellent defense in the box by the American midfielder.

85' UPDATE: Jones starts a break with a takeaway at midfield, leading to Schalke's second goal. Jones's club now up 2-0 over Arsenal.

FULL TIME UPDATE: And the upset is complete. Jones can be proud of his contributions to that effort, taking part in one goal and preventing another. Final Score: Arsenal 0 - 2 Schalke. Some redemption for the Americans in the second half at Emirates Stadium.

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