You’ll have to forgive Sacha Kljestan if he couldn’t believe a text message he received saying he was being called up to the United States men’s national team.
See, it’s been well over two years since the New York Red Bulls playmaker had sniffed a national team call-up. Many had written off any chance he had of ever getting that call again.
So, when a late Sunday night text from a California area code came in, Sacha was a little skeptical and thought it was a friend playing a cruel prank, he told ESPNFC.
"It was a '949' phone number which is where my brother lives, and close to where I grew up, so I thought it was maybe one of my friends that was having a joke with me," he told reporters prior to Tuesday's training session with the U.S. national team. "I didn't really want to text back like I was excited, [which] I was, so I just wrote 'Please call me.' [Klinsmann] called me a few minutes later, and we talked for a few minutes. And I told my wife and she didn't really believe it either. I'm here now. It's pretty exciting."
But it wasn’t a prank. Jurgen Klinsmann finally saw the light and decided to reward Kljestan for his one and a half seasons of great work in Major League Soccer.
When asked why he’d finally called on Sacha after all this time away, Klinsmann simply said he deserved it.
"The reason Sacha is back in this group is he deserves it," said Klinsmann. "He's a difference-maker at [the Red Bulls], and he's more mature, he seems very driven."
There’s not many around that would disagree with that reason. The 30-year-old has been among the top creators in MLS, with 22 total assists since joining the league in January 2015.
Kljestan’s performances with the national team in the past have been hit or miss. He’s never been a huge impact player at the international level. It will be very interesting, if he gets the chance, to see if he can replicate the chance creation he routinely provides the Red Bulls, with the USMNT.
That is an area of focus the national team has lacked for a good while. A player who can unlock an opposing defense with one pass. Sacha has proven he can do this at the club level in an advanced role. Can he do it at a much higher level? We can only hope he gets the chance to prove he can.