Merriam-Webster defines a keystone as a large stone at the top of an arch that locks the other stones in place, or something on which other things rely on for support. Simply put, without the keystone, the rest of the arch falls down. If the keystone can't perform to the best of its abilities, then the arch falls down. The thing about a keystone is that it can't just be any old block. It takes a special type of block to be the keystone. If the keystone is a different type of block, then guess what? The arch falls down. I'm sure most of you are wondering, "What the hell is this kid talking about? I come here for soccer posts, not architecture lessons." Well, simply put: Sacha Kljestan is so key to the team at this point that without him, or even if he has a bad game, the team suffers. Kljestan occupies a special role within the team. He operates as both a box to box midfielder and a #10. There are very few players that can play this role and play it well. Obviously, Kljestan is one of those players.
Luckily for the New York Red Bulls, Kljestan has technically missed only one game. On June 21st, against Vancouver, Kljestan picked up a questionable red card only about 10 minutes into the game. For 80 minutes, the Red Bulls were Kljestan-less. The Red Bulls ended up losing that game 2-1. Of course, Kljestan being sent off so early wasn't the only source of the Red Bulls' woes that game. A lot of credit must go towards David Ousted for saving not just one, but two Bradley Wright-Phillips penalties, winning Vancouver the three points.
That game was a turning point for Kljestan's season. In many careers, there are games that make or break a player. Up until that game, Kljestan had picked up just 2 goals and 1 assist in 14 games. In that same stretch of games, he also picked up 4 yellow cards. Hell, if you include the Whitecaps game, Kljestan had 0.2 goal contributions per game, and 0.33 cards per game. On the points side of things, the Red Bulls only managed to pick up 1.13 points per game. I'm sure that at this point, I was not the only one that doubted Kljestan.
Kljestan served his suspension and returned for a big match; the second iteration of the Hudson River Derby, this time at Yankee Stadium. Kljestan was coming off a poor start, a red card in his last match, and a big match against your new rivals in their house. By all means, Kljestan was set up for another poor game in a Red Bulls shirt. How did Kljestan respond? By grabbing two assists, including one on Matt Miazga's header in the 73rd minute. He lost out on Man of the Match Honors due to a strong showing by David Villa, but the game did show what Sacha was capable of. In the next 19 matches, Kljestan picked up 6 goals and 9 assists and zero cards. In that last stretch of 19 games, Kljestan had 0.79 goal contributions per game, almost four times what he had in his torrid first 15. In those 19 games, the Red Bulls also managed to pick up a cool 2.11 points per game, almost a whole point per game difference as opposed to the first 15. Quite the turnaround.
With the form Kljestan is in, if he is on the field, there is a very good chance the Red Bulls are going to win. It's imperative that Kljestan keeps up his strong disciplinary record (though, in the last game against D.C. United, he did pick up a yellow) and that he stays healthy. While Lloyd Sam, Mike Grella, and Bradley Wright-Phillips are the ones scoring most of the goals for the offense, without Kljestan, the keystone, the offense just wouldn't stand up.