Kljestan wants to figure for US Nat'l Team

Despite success, MF has something to prove after missing WCup

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Despite the headlines he’s been grabbing during Champions League qualifying, it’s not hard to think back and remember Sacha Kljestan in his Chivas USA kit during his rookie season in 2006.

But in five short years, Belgian giant Anderlecht’s newest weapon has risen to stardom, something he didn’t envision happening by the age of 24.

“I wasn’t sure it’d be coming this fast,” said the former Chivas USA captain, admitting that his success, consistent call-ups to the US National Team and signing with a European club happened much quicker than he anticipated.

The biggest part of the transition to European soccer, Kljestan said, is the “mental awareness.”

“Technically, [the Belgian First Division is] a little better than MLS – tactically, too,” Kjlestan said. “So far, it has been pretty good. So far, I like it.

The season has just started for Kljestan and Anderlecht, who are in the final round of qualifying for a Champions League berth. He calls his new club the biggest one in Belgium, but acknowledges that the league isn’t one of the biggest ones in Europe and that he’d someday like to play in one of the elite leagues overseas.

“I had a goal, I had a dream to one day play in the Champions League,” Kljestan said. “[Anderlecht] is a good place for me, I like it.”

Though this summer has been good for the midfielder, it could’ve been better. Usually a regular for call-ups to the national team, Kljestan was left out of the US roster that made the trip to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup.

Kljestan, who returns to the national team for the first time since failing to make the World Cup roster, said he wants to make the trip for the 2014 World Cup. Tuesday night’s match against perennial juggernaut Brazil is the first step in that process.

The game between the Nats and the Seleção, a rematch of the 2009 Confederations Cup final, will be a chance for Kljestan to show off his confidence and to prove that he is a player who can figure prominently into the national team for the next four years.

And the playmaker says he’s ready to prove himself on the field.

“I always have something to prove when I’m on the field,” Kljestan said.

Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012.