-Ed. Note: Eric Quintana is a staff writer for DirtySouthSoccer.com and is currently in Jacksonville ahead of the USMNT vs. Trinidad & Tobago World Cup qualifier.
In the last two years Sacha Kljestan has been one of the best chance-creation midfielders in MLS. For Kljestan, it’s time to translate that club success to the national team. But, what’s really changed since the last time the Red Bulls' No. 10 was called up to the U.S. men’s national team?
"I think back then, I was also a bit apprehensive…to make mistakes," Kljestan said on Monday ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup Qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago. "I think I wanted to be more on the safe side of things. When you play like that, you’re never going to play at your best."
"Now, having spent so much time away, and also spending the last year and a half being a No. 10 in the Red Bulls' system and just having more comfort playing closer to the strikers and things like that, I think I’m just more comfortable making those final plays. I think I’m a little bit more daring now and a little bit more confident to make those final plays," he added.
The new approach was certainly apparent in his performance against St. Vincent and the Grenadines, scoring once and recording two assists in the second half, all in some combination with Christian Pulisic.
"Linking up with him even in training yesterday, it’s just easy. He just sees the game well and it’s easy to play with him," he said.
The job’s not done though. The USMNT still needs to officially qualify for the Hexagonal and Kljestan still believes this is an opportunity to prove himself. While for USMNT supporters a future call-up may seem obvious, he knows his participation in this round of World Cup Qualifiers is more a product of the situation rather than anything else.
"I’ve just gone in one day at a time trying to do the best I can to prove to him I deserve to be here and that I can be a plus for this team. So far so good."