Winning a league title is a rare accomplishment for American soccer players in Europe. After winning the Belgian Pro League with Anderlecht during the 2011-2012 season, Sacha Kljestan remembers celebrating the moment by hearing from friends and family from all over.
One of the people who congratulated the American midfielder was United States boss Jurgen Klinsmann, but unfortunately his message wasn't all good news.
"He sent me an email after the season ended, saying congratulations on winning the championship but that I'm not involved with the national team right now," Kljestan revealed to Goal.com. "It's a bit disappointing because I thought I had a really good season and I thought I could help the national team.
"Obviously, he doesn't see it that way."
Kljestan has made only one appearance for the U.S. national team since Klinsmann's arrival last year. In February, he played 20 minutes in a surprising 1-0 friendly victory over Italy. For some, Kljestan's continued omissions form the national team are surprising considering the success he's had in Belgium.
Kljestan has been a first-team regular for Anderlecht since joining the club in 2010 from Chivas USA. In the team's title run, Kljestan scored four goals and provided three assists from a holding midfield role. He also contributed to Anderlecht's Europa League run to knockout stages with the team losing to Jozy Altidore's AZ Alkmaar. He has experience in the Champions League, having been involved with qualifiers last year and hopes to help guide Anderlecht to the group stages this year.
"That was one of the main reasons why I came to Anderlecht, why I wanted to play for one of the bigger clubs in Europe, was to have the opportunity to play in Champions League," Kljestan stated.
He added, " We start our qualifying again and this time I hope we get into the group stage. So we can test ourselves against the best in the world."
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Despite all of those accomplishments, Kljestan appears to not be high on Klinsmann's radar. Yet, the 26-year-old won't let that deter him. Kljestan has enjoyed life living in Brussels and playing for one of the country's top two clubs, the other being Standard Liege.
"A lot of it starts with the club," Kljestan said. "They welcomed me with open arms. Even the people in Brussels are very open and welcoming as well. They are all very nice so. I've learned a lot from the people here and I've enjoyed my experience so far."
After coming from one of MLS's smaller clubs in Chivas USA, Kljestan admits that his lifestyle is a world apart from the relative anonymity of being one of the Goats at Carson, Calif.
"It's nice to see even in a foreign country, an American here, seeing them chant U-S-A, U-S-A every time I do something," Kljestan said. "It's a special feeling that they are only cheering for me and to be recognized for something that you work hard for."
With two years remaining on his contract, Kljestan admits that he would like to prolong his stay at Anderlecht but states that the decision might not be completely up to him. Ariel Jacobs, the coach who brought Kljestan to Belgium, left Anderlecht to take over Danish giant FC Copenhagen. Replacing Jacobs is John van den Brom, who has changed the tactical style of the club.
"So it's like I kind of lost my spot and have to prove it all over again," Kljestan said.
If there's one positive of Van den Brom's arrival, the Dutchman wants Kljestan to play an attacking midfield role which could see him improve offensively. The California native indicated that Anderlecht has approached him about a contract extension and if he's given a fair shot, he would be less inclined to explore any other option.
"I am still trying to get a feel for [the new coach] and see what he's about," Kljestan explained. "I think the management from the president to the general manager, most of the people at the club know what I'm about and I've earned their respect. So we'll see how things will go over the next month or so, feeling things out."
While some have questioned whether or not staying in the lesser-known Belgian top division would hurt Kljestan's chances of a national team call up, he argues that the league is much more difficult than its given credit for.
He points to the fact that the league plays a much more defensively than its neighboring league in Netherlands, which is known for being offensive. Kljestan believes he can continue to grow in the BPL, a place where Axel Witsel and Marouane Fellaini developed before thriving at bigger clubs abroad.
Hopefully, Klinsmann takes notice.
"I'm going to continue to keep on working hard. I need to be the best I can be. If he does give me a chance, I'll be ready," Kljestan said.