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US v. Sweden: A Healthy Helping of Special K

Well, it’s now been one week since the US Men’s National Team opened their 2009 season with a 3-2 win in a friendly against the Swedes. The Men improved their record at the HDC to 7-0-1 due to the brilliant play of Special K, Sacha Kljestan, who scored all three goals (his first three for the MNT) and became only the second US player (after Aldo “Buff” Donelli in 1934) to notch his first goal on a day which eventually resulted in a hat trick.

Kljestan’s first goal was a 35 yard rocket free kick in the 17th minute that he perfectly placed in the upper left corner. His second goal was a PK after John Thorrington was taken down in the box just before half. Kljestan’s hat trick came on a beautiful left footer that was beautifully assisted by Brian Ching, who had a fine game and displayed his usual tenacity up top. Besides Sacha, Ching was definitely Man of the Match.

The defense played very well in the first half, with Parkhurst and Califf snuffing out the Swedes’ attack and Wynne and Bornstein playing well. Kenny Cooper almost notched a goal just after the second half started. He had just come in to replace Charlie Davies, who definitely looked the poorest of everyone who took the pitch. Davies didn’t look like he belonged out there, which is disappointing because he had previously played well in limited opportunities.

Sweden’s first goal came as a result of some poor marking by Bornstein, who was the most disappointing player on the backline. The second goal, which came just prior to the match’s end, was the product of Wynne not shadowing his man properly. Perkins did not have a great game, ceding two goals and only saving three shots. Cooper also missed some good opportunities, and I think everyone who thinks he’s better than Chingy should watch this tape.

Thorrington played hard, and his replacement Rolfe was invisible. Rogers played OK, but had some open space that he could have taken better advantage of. Ricardo Clark played pretty well, which is great because he had been deplorable for the Nats lately. All in all, the US had a good game and got the right result, though they did not finish strong. But, it’s important to remember this was a young team.

Kljestan played fantastic, and this day will be remembered as the one he emerged as one of our top talents. I think he belongs in the starting lineup against Mexico (and I think Celtic should pay MLS for his services) but we will have to wait to see if those two things happen. He played poorly last time for the Nats, but came into his own tonight. His three goals tonight were impressive, especially the first and third. Keep in mind, only two players scored more than three goals in all of 2008 (Ching in 7 games and Dempsey in 10). I think he has to start against Mexico this month.