New York Red Bulls fans finally got their wish to see star No. 10 and MLS MVP candidate Sacha Kljestan get a much-deserved spot on the USMNT - and he proved his worth to the roster with a goal and two assists to boot. Unfortunately, his callup by Klinsmann means he'll be absent for the Red Bulls' last road game on the west coast this season against 15th-ranked Vancouver Whitecaps.
For those fortunate enough to have a very short memory, the road has not been kind to the Red Bulls this season and has been downright brutal for them in the Western Conference games. To recap, in four games against San Jose, Colorado, Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy, the Red Bulls have been outscored 8-4, shut out twice, claimed exactly one point and have dropped five points from winning positions.
Needless to say, not even Vancouver's recent poor form feels like a comfort for fans who have dealt with one road heartbreak after another.
To get a win - even against a team struggling as much as the Whitecaps right now - Jesse Marsch will really need to really reach into his depth chart to pull out a team that can get a win on the road, especially with so many players injured or otherwise unavailable.
There's a sneaking suspicion that Marsch will reintroduce the 4-2-2-2 in Kljestan's absence and the options up front are numerous indeed with Omer Damari, Gonzalo Veron and even Daniel Royer showing strong form in what limited minutes they've all been given.
Here is the New York Red Bulls predicted XI vs Vancouver Whitecaps:
GK Luis Robles - Jesse Marsch said he wouldn't bet against the MLS Iron Man continuing his streak, and neither will we. That said, Robles has been getting banged up with much more apparent frequency these last few months - and hopefully that won't result in anything more serious in these final games (knock on wood).
DF Sal Zizzo - Marsch indicated that Zizzo or Justin Bilyeu would get the nod in place of Kemar Lawrence. This is one pick Red Bulls fans probably hope is dead wrong though considering Zizzo's recent form.
DF Aurelien Collin
DF Ronald Zubar
DF Chris Duvall
MF Sean Davis - Dax McCarty keeps hinting on Twitter that he's close to a return. But with three games in eight days coming up next week, Marsch may want to give Dax a few more days rest and Davis one more shot at a road win with the team.
MF Felipe - While the Brazilian is usually slotted into Kljestan's place at the 10 spot, Marsch may keep him in the defensive midfield this week in favor slotting a partner up front for Bradley Wright-Phillips.
MF Mike Grella
MF Alex Muyl
FW Omer Damari - The Red Bulls didn't pay out the you-know-where just to use the Israeli striker as a second-half sub in MLS and CCL games. Sooner or later he's getting a start, and a Saturday match without Kljestan in the mix might just be the day my hashtag #NYisRAELI finally becomes a thing. Fingers crossed.
FW Bradley Wright-Phillips
Slightly off-topic, Sacha Kljestan's one goal, two assist performance for the USMNT on Friday might result in at least a start against Trinidad and Tobago if not a permanent starting role during the World Cup hexagonal. Unfortunately, that could very well result in the Mustache Man missing even more games and gaining more injury risk in 2016 and beyond.
What do you think? Are you in favor of Kljestan getting a starting role on the USMNT?