Kljestan. Califf. Beasley. Spector.
Four different cases with one common bond — it’s been a while since we’ve seen any of these guys in the red, white, and blue (or the black and red in the case of the badass away uniforms). So why can’t these guys get on the field? And what have they been doing in the meantime?
Sacha Kljestan: A rising star in the American central midfield a year ago, Sacha was seen as an offensively minded compliment to Michael Bradley. He netted a hat trick in a friendly against Sweden, converting a free kick, a PK, and grabbing one in the run of play. Sacha’s creativity and distribution were making him a staple in the U.S. side… and then the wheels fell off. To say Kljestan had a rough second half of WC qualifying would be a massive understatement. His last three or four games against CONCACAF opposition were marked with turnovers and looking lost at times. This rough patch carried over to the beginning of his season with Chivas USA and culminated in the first Brazil game at the Confederation’s Cup. Not only did Kljestan look as bad as he’d ever looked, turning the ball over and not making decisions fast enough, but he capped his day by getting red carded after a sliding tackle made in a bout of frustration. But Sacha’s responded to playing himself out of the national team. He had a strong second half for Chivas, scoring five goals and notching three assists, and is back on the U.S. roster for the friendly against Slovakia. Maybe he’ll actually be given another shot by coach Bob Bradley? Maybe not. But for a guy that was getting an actual look from Celtic a year ago, I hope he gets another chance.
Danny Califf: Possibly a case of a guy who never made the jump in his play that many of us saw coming. Califf is a rock solid defender in the Danish Superliga, spending his last three years with two of the top teams in that league. It made sense for Bob Bradley to throw Califf into the national team, and for a short time he flourished in the central defense as a substitute and a spot starter. Califf proved he could play next to Onyewu and form an effective partnership from time to time, but the consistency never came. When it was high time for Califf to prove that he could be an every game guy in the back four Dan showed that he was absolutely not a corner defender, and subsequent performances by Jay Demerit and Chad Marshall n the middle have ousted Califf from the squad altogether. Interestingly, even Clarence Goodson is currently preferred to Califf on the roster. Califf’s got six months prove he deserves to be on the plane to South Africa, but is Bob Bradley even reviewing the Danish game tapes?
Demarcus Beasley: Injuries and poor play have caused Beasley’s stock to plummet recently, but he’s still a speedy winger that has actually set up a goal in a World Cup game for the U.S. So what do the Yanks do with an out-of-form former star? He’s been injury prone. He seems to have lost a step. And he can barely make it on the field for Rangers these days. Yet he’s scored more UEFA Champions League goals than any American… ever. Beasley’s not too old to be effective, but he had his worst game ever recently in the first clash with Brazil at the Confederation’s Cup (I swear this is the last time I reference that terrible soccer match). All that being said, Demarcus just launched his own line of jewelry in Glasgow. I have no idea what to make of that, or of Beasley’s prospects of making it on the World Cup roster, but make sure to put DS Diamonds on your Christmas list.
Jonathan Spector: The curious case of Jonathan Spector is more like it. Spec has done nothing but impress for the Yanks at the right back position whenever he’s been given a chance. No, he hasn’t been the soccer version of a lockdown corner, but he’s showed flashes being able to shut down a flank like he did against Italy this summer. More importantly, he’s been a responsible side back that’s shown the ability to get forward when given the chance and serve the ball into the box with precision (no surprise out a guy that grew up in Manchester United’s youth system). So why doesn’t Jon get a chance to start in the wake of an outstanding Confederation’s Cup? Possibly because the national team is full up on capable right backs; Spector, Cherundolo, and the evergreen Frankie Hejduk can all play the position and play it well. But on the other side of the field? Raise your hand if you think Jonathan Bornstein is the answer at left back… waiting… okay you can put your hand down now Bob Bradley. A recent injury on Spector’s club West Ham United may soon force Bradley to look at Jonathan as more than just a right back though. Professional left back Herita Illunga is out for the Hammers and Spector is getting the starts in the meantime. This could serve as an audition for that spot on the national side. We’ll see if Bradley deploys him there in either the game against Slovakia or the Denmark match.