Monday, January 26, 2009

USA-Sweden Recap

Well, Saturday’s friendly between the United States and Sweden at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA can be summed up in 4 words: The Sacha Kljestan Show. Kljestan scored 3 goals, including an amazing free kick and a penalty kick to record the first hat trick by a U.S. player since Aldo "Buff" Donelli did it 75 years ago in a 3-2 U.S. victory. Sweden sent their B team, with only a couple of players that play regular first-team soccer for the Swedes making the trip. The U.S. team was made up of mostly MLSers, as this was not a FIFA international date, meaning that clubs didn’t have to release the players to play. This was a game for a lot of the younger talent on both sides to get some international experience. But, more importantly, it gave the young Americans confidence as they played well against a very strong side.

Yet, no one gained more confidence than Sacha Kljestan. He actually had left training camp early in the week to fly to Scotland to train with Celtic, then came back in time to record the hat trick against Sweden. I don’t know what they fed him in Scotland, but I hope he brought back the recipe. This was an excellent game for Kljestan, who keeps getting better and better the more he plays, both in MLS and on the international level. He is starting to become one of those players you have to include in your side every time out, which is great. If he can keep this form up, he will have a chance to really help lead the U.S. when they take the field against Mexico in the first World Cup Qualifier in 2 weeks.

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