Six months into MLS 2015, how many New York Red Bulls have won Player of the Month? None. Bradley Wright-Phillips was nominated in March, but finished fourth out of five in the voting. Since then, MLS hasn't found any RBNY players worth of nomination, so they have struggled to attract even a small number of votes.
But in August, the Red Bulls have hit their best form of the season: four wins, a draw and a loss in six games. And Sacha Kljestan contributed two goals and five assists in that stretch. He had three goals and four assists in the 18 regular season matches he's played this season before August.
As we have come to understand, Sacha occupies the #10 spot in the Red Bulls' lineup, but his role is not that of the advanced playmaker traditionally expected in that position. He is part of the attack, yes - but he is also expected to function as a destroyer high up the pitch. Kljestan's job in Jesse Marsch's team is as much about closing down opponents before they get out of their own half of the field as it is about directing the attack from a central position on the field. It's the reason his attacking productivity was modest for most of the season, and the reason it is somewhat surprising it has picked up so dramatically in August.
The other nominees are basically players doing what they've always done for their teams this season, just a little better perhaps than in preceding months.
Sacha has rather suddenly morphed into the creative playmaker one associates with his position, but not necessarily him as a player. His role hasn't really changed, and yet he does appear to have been doing things a bit differently this month. And that evolution of his understanding and execution of his responsibilities (plus taking over set-piece duties from Felipe Martins and penalty-taking from Bradley Wright-Phillips) has made him a much more important and effective part of RBNY's attack in August than he had been for the entirety of the season up to this point.
Sacha has changed. "Better" is a big word that probably has no place in this discussion, but he has certainly become more visible in the production of goals and assists - the currency of victory in soccer.