While tonight's clash against Belgium will pit many club teammates against each other, one American has a deeper connection.
Sacha Kljestan – who will make his first start under Jurgen Klinsmann when he lines up in midfield tonight - plays for two-time defending champion Anderlecht of the Belgian Pro League.
“It’s special for me because I play against a lot of these guys week in and week out,” Kljestan said. “I’ve watched the Belgian team and followed them very closely.”
The Belgian National Team has one other player from Anderlecht, defender Guillaume Gillet, a player Kljestan said the U.S. Men’s National Team must look out for.
“He’s a very attacking-minded right back who can get up and down a lot,” Kljestan said of his teammate in Belgium. “He’s got a good engine, he’s got great technique and is going to attack a lot from the right back position.”
Another player Kljestan knows and played with is striker Romelu Lukaku, who finished sixth in the English Premier League with 17 goals while on loan with West Bromwich Albion.
“He’s a young boy, but he’s a good striker with a lot of talent,” Kljestan said. “He’s got some pace; he’s got good technique in the box and definitely a handful to deal with.”
Lukaku played at Anderlecht from 2009 until 2011 when he was signed by Chelsea. His younger brother Jordan is still teammates with Kljestan in Belgium.
Though many of the Belgian National Team players play outside the country, Kljestan said he still hears about them in the newspapers every week. Belgium has a lot of talent and he believes they’ll give the U.S. all they can handle.
“Normal soccer fans in the States don’t know, but in my opinion, Belgium is one of the best teams in the world right now.”