Two Roads Converge in Antigua
All players, no matter how much experience they have, still get a special feeling when they receive word they have been selected to the National Team. Especially for a World Cup qualifier, the sense of pride is magnified. For two players on the current roster, the chance to be with the team for these two critical matches is particularly gratifying, although the route has been quite different.
Midfield mainstay Michael Bradley missed out on the previous two qualifiers against Jamaica through injury, the first time he hasn’t suited up for a qualifier since June 2009. The U.S. had been effective in qualifying with Bradley in the lineup, as the team has collected a 12-2-3 record. For a competitor and consummate teammate like Bradley, missing camps and games is not a feeling he’d like to experience again anytime soon.
“It’s not fun. Hopefully, it’s the last time for a while that I won’t be around,” Bradley said. “You’re far away, but you’re still trying to stay connected with the guys and what’s going on in camp. With the time difference, following games and watching games is not always the easiest. You’re so emotionally invested into it, you want so bad to be there and you want so badly for the guys who are there to do well and come away with good results. Always, I prefer being here.”
Sacha Kljestan is no stranger to World Cup qualifying, having appeared 10 times during the 2010 cycle. Now 27 years old and with 34 caps to his credit, Kljestan is relishing the opportunity to be part of this rare journey.
“Being a part of the last qualifying campaign was a special feeling,” Kljestan said. “We had a great team and a really good group. I think this group is pretty much the same. We have that special feeling when you play for the U.S. National Team and missing out on it for the past year has been disappointing. Now that I’m here, I want to do the most that I can so that I’m here every time there’s a camp.”