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February 10, 2015
Though returning to MLS is in contrast to Klinsmann's desires, Kljestan wants a chance

By Brian Trusdell
Soccer News Net Contributor

Sacha Kljestan hopes to make a return to the U.S. National Team
Sacha Kljestan hopes to make a return to the U.S. National Team
Linda Cuttone/sports Vue Images

HARRISON, N.J. – Sacha Kljestan has returned to MLS because he wants to be here, he says, not because he has to be.

While other recent MLS returnees/arrivals with U.S. national team credentials may have weighed comments from manager/sporting director Juergen Klinsmann that indicated his preference for those playing in Europe, Kljestan didn't consider such influences.

“I guess I can't live my life and play football just to be worried about what the national team is going through and what (Klinsmann is) thinking,” Kljestan said Tuesday when introduced as the New York Red Bulls latest acquisition. “I think when I show, I hope to prove that I'm one of the best midfielders in MLS that I'll find my way back to the national team that way.”

A regular at Anderlecht since he left Chivas USA in 2010, the 29-year-old Kljestan had seen his playing time trimmed this season to five starts in 13 league appearances, but he was on the field for the “purple and white” as recently as 10 days ago.

“I could have stayed at Anderlecht for my entire career,” he said. “The president and general manager there told me I could stay there for my entire career if I wanted to. But the challenge arose to try to come to New York, the Red Bull organization, try to be a leader. A team that's never won MLS Cup is a huge challenge.”

Kljestan didn't have to consider Klinsmann, because he was ostensibly doing everything that U.S. national team's decision maker wanted. He was on the roster of a relatively big European club; he was playing regularly; with a team that won titles; and he was playing in the European Champions League (including matches in four of the five seasons he was there).

For a guy who has 46 caps, he has made only one appearance with the national team in more than 14 months.

“He's a guy who's been unbelievably successful in Europe, playing at a great club, winning championships, playing Champions League – and not getting called in (to the national team),” said Kljestan's agent Rich Motzkin. “He's had been doing what Juergen professes players should do, but he wasn't getting called in.”

“There's not much more he could have done over there.”

A California native, Kljestan said the challenge to help the Red Bulls claim a trophy that only three of the original 10 teams haven't won (New England and Dallas are the others; Tampa Bay no longer exists) was the biggest draw to return to the United States.

He also alluded to a 10-month-old daughter and a familiarity with the New York area, having played his college soccer at Seton Hall University in nearby South Orange, N.J.,

His benchmark of winning an MLS Cup with a team where those with much more impressive pedigrees – such as Roberto Donadoni, Lothar Matthaeus, Youri Djorkaeff and Thierry Henry – could not, might draw cynical glares.

New Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch may see Kljestan as someone who will need to perform roles of his predecessors – saying he envisions a more offensive posture for him as opposed to his holding midfield duties at Anderlecht – but doesn't see him as sole personification of the team.

“The face of this team is going to be the team,” Marsch said. “That's one of the reasons why Sacha is such a great fit. He's not motivated by personal success but by team success.”

And he apparently won't be looking or needing, necessarily, to impress Klinsmann.

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