No National Call-up For Robles, Kljestan

EDITOR’S NOTE: Kljestan was added as a replacement for the injured Bobby Wood on March 19.

Neither Sacha Kljestan nor Luis Robles has been called up to the United States men’s national team for two crucial World Cup qualifiers.

It’s somewhat of a surprise given the high level of play that both New York Red Bulls players have had for club and country in recent months. It left head coach Jesse Marsch puzzled.

“I was very surprised about both,” he said. “The Sacha part, I thought it had become clear that he had established himself as an important guy with that team. Given the last six months of how he’s played and the fact that he’s been a part of every game, I would have thought it meant that he was going to be a part of these moments for this team.”

Kljestan worked his way back on to the national team last year after an MVP-caliber season with the Red Bulls. He followed it up with several good showings for the United States in friendly matches and in World Cup qualifiers. A technical player with good vision and tactical awareness, he seemed like a lock to make Bruce Arena’s squad before Wednesday’s announcement. 

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“I know he is disappointed,” Marsch added. “But his mentality is always so good. He takes it as a new challenge and as an opportunity to prove Bruce [Arena] wrong and show him through his play in the league that he deserves to be on the team.”

Robles also seemed like a strong possibility to make the team. The goalkeeper has been in solid form during the early part of the 2017 season with terrific performances in the CONCACAF Champions League and the first two MLS games.

Marsch mused that the Robles situation is perhaps “circumstantial” as it might have to deal with the availability of David Bingham of the San Jose Earthquakes to be able to provide quick relief. The United States plays Honduras in the first match of this leg of qualifiers at Avaya Stadium, the home of the Earthquakes. 

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Despite the snub, Marsch thinks Robles will get calls in the future. Robles started a friendly match last month against Jamaica and reportedly enjoyed a very strong national team camp prior to that. 

“From what I’ve understood, Luis is still a big part of that group and that picture,” Marsch said.

Red Bulls Notes

  • Midfielder Gonzalo Veron, who was injured in the second leg of the Champions League loss to the Whitecaps, was training on Wednesday and could be back soon. The Argentine pulled his hamstring early in that match and has missed the first two regular season matches.

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 “Today was his best day. He’s feeling better. He did some jogging on the treadmill and we’re hopeful that now we can progress pretty quickly,” Marsch said. “Not sure he’ll be available for the weekend, especially with it being turf.”

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“I think he’ll provide something different up top. I think the potential for him to be a really good partner with Bradley is high. It’s about getting through the process day-to-day, but the initial indications are very good. We’re excited to have him here,” Marsch said. 

“He’s a potential for the weekend, for sure, to start. He’s been training with Salzburg for a month.”

The Red Bulls’ head coach did say that Gulbrandsen is fit, but added that he isn’t ready to play a full 90 minutes yet.

  •  Some eagle-eyed posters at scooped the media this past weekend, noting that forward Bradley Wright-Phillips is no longer listed on the league website as an international player. The English striker has twice led the league in scoring, including a remarkable run of form last season.

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“He’s got his green card,” Marsch said on Wednesday. “I was telling him he’s officially an American.”