By Jon Levy
Super Sacha: Ready for Glasgow… and the World?
Pittsburgh hockey fans still talk about the night Mario Lemieux five goals, each of a different variety. Even strength, power play, shorthanded, a penalty shot, and finally an empty netter. Super Mario’s super night on New Year’s Eve 1988 against the Devils signaled perhaps the NHL’s finest single-game offensive performance by perhaps the league’s greatest scorer.
So what of Sacha Kljestan’s January 2009 hat trick in a friendly against Sweden on the night of Margarito v. Mosley? An outstanding free kick, a well taken penalty, and a goal through the run of play to finish it off. Was it equivalent to Lemieux’s virtuoso performance? Not quite, but impressive nonetheless. And more importantly it emphatically made one of the same points to witnesses that Lemieux’s goal-fest did twenty years ago.
This dude is better than the other dudes on the field/ice.
I’m a Sacha Kljestan fan. I’ve been a Sacha Kljestan fan since the 2007 Under-20 World Cup. And maybe even more importantly, I live with Super Fan #16. My roommate Raf has been on the Kljestan train as long as I have, but well, in a bigger way. He doesn’t wear a t-shirt with an iron-on of the guy’s face on it or anything, but in order to illustrate my point, here are some typical Raf quotes:
“Sacha Kljestan, best player in the world… worst case scenario, best American player in the world.”
“Obviously Sacha’s gonna take over for Gerrard at Liverpool when Stevie G gets too old, not even a question.”
“Kljestan makes Michael Bradley look like a little girl.”
While Raf may be a master of exaggeration, he’s got the right idea. Kljestan outclassed a young and largely untested group of Americans and Swedes on Saturday night, and thoroughly established his national team pedigree. Furthermore, he’s impressed with his ball distribution in WC qualifying with the rest of the regular first teamers.
Sacha’s 23, has had success at every level he’s been at, and seems to be on his way to Glasgow to play for Celtic, the Scottish Premier League Champions. It stands to reason that he’s only going to get better in Britain. I know the American central midfield is crowded, but the role of starting attacking central MF should be Kljestan’s to lose. I know he can play wing as well, but I can’t justify supplanting Beasley or Dempsey, and I can no longer justify not starting Super Sacha. So I guess Bob Bradley’s just going to have to lock his son, Mo Edu, Ricardo Clark, Stuart Holden, Pablo Mastroeni, and Eddie Lewis in some sort of a cage to fight it out over the remaining central midfield spot.
As far as other thoughts on Saturday night’s game go, I now long to see the starting defense back on the field. While not an overly bad performance from Marvell Wynne (who drew the penalty!), Danny Califf and the boys, Onyewu and his merry men wouldn’t have fallen asleep at the wheel on the two occasions that led to the goals. Up two and dominating possession, the Gooch’s and Bocanegra’s of the team keep getting stuck in and protect that clean sheet.
Blame for the two goals also falls on keeper Troy Perkins of course, but we can’t be too hard on him since he is quite obviously a victim of The Curse of Tony Meola. Ever since Meola sported his savage ponytail in the ’94 World Cup no befollicled keeper has had any real success for the national team. Oh we’ve had plenty of great keepers, but when you think about it; from Friedel to Keller to Howard, they’ve all been bald or balding. Even our World Cup 2014 goalie Brad Guzan has got some male pattern baldness going on. Sad to say, but Troy Perkins struggled because Troy Perkins has a full head of hair. Tony Meola does not abide.
And lastly, I think Brian Ching has proven to everyone that he deserves to be on this team on a regular basis. In a game where he was relatively quiet Ching still drew the foul that led to Sacha’s free kick goal and assisted on the third goal. We all hope Jozy Altidore continues to develop into what he’s capable of being, but right now, Ching is very much in the top striker conversation. It’s going to be interesting to see who starts up front with Donovan when we get into hexagonal play.