January 24, 2009
Kljestan’s hat trick sparks US
CARSON, Calif. –Sacha Kljestan struck for his first three international goals, and the US Men needed every one of them to edge Sweden 3-2 in a friendly at the Home Depot Center Saturday night.
|Sacha Kljestan became only the second man in U.S. Soccer history to score his first three international goals in the same game.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Kljestan, just returned from five days of training with Scotland’s Glasgow Celtic, became only the 12th player in U.S. men's soccer history to register a hat-trick, and the second man to score his first three goals in the same game. Aldo "Buff" Donelli performed the feat in 1934.
With many qualifying games looming for both sides, neither team deployed its first National Team in the Americans' first match of the year. The U.S. team included players from MLS and Europe, but none who could be considered a regular of the A team.
However, Kljestan certainly made a case for inclusion in World Cup qualifying rosters down the line.
He fired a 28-yard bullet into the upper 90 on the left side past goalkeeper Johan Dahlin to give the Americans a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute.
Kljestan doubled the U.S. advantage with a 40th minute penalty kick, after right fullback Marvell Wynne was taken down in the box by defender Adam Johansson on an overlap.
Kljestan completed his hat trick in the 74th minute, thanks to some acrobatic ball work by Brian Ching. The Houston Dynamo striker stretched to settle a high service at the top of the box and eluded defenders Marcus Lindberg and Max von Schlebrugge for a quick dish to Kljestan, who was breaking in on the left side and finished with a hard shot from close range.
The U.S. defense, anchored by Wynne at right back and Jonathan Bornstein on the left, neutralized the Swedish attack until well into the second half. But fatigue and a run of late substitutions – including Chris Wingert for Bornstein in the 79th minute and Ugo Ohemalu for Michael Parkhurst three minutes later, left the American backline looking vulnerable, and allowed the Swedes to make a game of it in the late going. Sweden’s wingers, finally able to get off crosses into the box, took full advantage.
In the 73rd minute, with the US leading 2-0, Alexander Farnerud sent a 35-yard floater to Daniel Nannskop, whose diving header past goalkeeper Troy Perkins from the top corner of the six-yard box made it a one-goal game. Kljestan took the point back almost immediately, but a new tone had been set for the match.
In the 76th minute, Mikael Dahlberg just missed connecting with a cross that would have given him a point-blank shot on goal. And in the 87th, Ihemalu cleared Nannskog’s dangerous spinning header from just off the far post.
Two minutes later, Dahlberg got past Ihemalu for another far-post header that closed the gap to 3-2, but that was a close as things got. Kenny Cooper, Jr., who entered the game at halftime for Charlie Davies, gave the U.S. the last solid scoring chance of the game, breaking free in the box with only Dahlin to beat. The scrambling netminder kept pace, however, and managed to block the shot.