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Bruce Arena: "I thought Sacha Kljestan was possibly the best player in the league this year"

The USMNT head coach is a Sacha Kljestan fan.

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Arena is getting himself out and about as he settles into his second stint as US Men's National Team head coach. A sit-down with reporters on Tuesday, November 29, saw the USMNT's back-to-the-future new manager take the chance to clarify (again) his views on foreign-born players in the national team pool:

I think the phrase foreign-nationals is a very poor term. And I will not use it.

And he spoke to what he sees as some of the team's more immediate needs:

We need a better passer in the midfield than we have.

He covered similar ground in an interview with's Andrew Wiebe and David Gass. A seemingly relaxed Arena also opened up on a variety of other topics in his chat with the official website of MLS, including a glancing reference to his disappointing stint as head coach of the New York Red Bulls (from August 2006 to November 2007). After revealing he turned down an approach from Brondby after USMNT's exit from the 2006 World Cup because he felt he had been "beat up enough" during the tournament, he was asked by David Gass whether he had contemplated retirement from coaching altogether:

No. What I should have done is taken a break. I should have let...ride out the year and then start coaching again in 2007. I have to blame my agent on that.

From the perspective of RBNY fans, however, the most significant aspect of the interview was his response to a somewhat leading question from Andrew Wiebe about MLS heroes Sacha Kljestan, Benny Feilhaber, and Darlington Nagbe. Arena indicated he's a fan of all three, and suggested he's expecting to have a look at them all in the USMNT's January training camp, but he made it clear which of the trio he has been most impressed by recently:

I thought Sacha Kljestan was possibly the best player in the league this year. I think he's an outstanding passer of the ball, got great vision, he moves off the ball well, he knows how to bring his teammates into the game.

As Wiebe noted subsequently, Arena's admiration for Kljestan is no secret: he tried to sign Sacha for LA Galaxy, was blocked by MLS, and described the league's machinations as the actions of "children" (for which he was fined by Don Garber).

Since MLS is typically supportive of any national team exposure for its players, Arena and the league are back on the same side with respect to allowing him to put Kljestan in his lineup. Expect Sacha to be busy this January.

And watch the full MLS interview with Arena here: