New York Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan was on the roster but did not play for the United States in its 2-1 loss to rival Mexico Friday in a World Cup qualifying match in Columbus, Ohio.
USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann opted to start Borussia Dortmund's Christian Pulisic, 18, in the center of the midfield. Later in the match, with the score tied at 1, Klinsmann inserted defender Michael Orozco instead of a more attacking player such as Kljestan. It was a night of curious decisions from Klinsmann, who also deployed his team in an unfamiliar 3-5-2 formation. However, the German legend has never shied away from experimentation, regardless of the environment or stakes.
Kljestan was a strong presence for the national team in September and October, providing key service from the attacking midfielder position. Pulisic was a bit overmatched, and eventually moved out to his favored winger position. Despite Kljestan's absence, the U.S. didn't struggle to create scoring chances, but was unable to capitalize on their opportunities.
It's possible that Kljestan's broken nose kept him out of the starting lineup. He sustained the injury in the Red Bulls' 2-1 season ending loss to the Montreal Impact on Sunday. In an interview with MLSSoccer.com, Kljestan admitted that he had difficulty breathing and would be forced to wear a mask.
The U.S. faces Costa Rica on Tuesday in San Jose. A second consecutive loss would put them in a deep hole to open the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.