Let’s take a trip, back into time.
It’s June of 2015 and the New York Red Bulls are struggling for offense after a nice start. Three months into the Ali Curtis-Jesse Marsch regime and Sacha Kljestan, the biggest acquisition of the previous offseason, has yet to yield the results NY had hoped after bringing the American international back from Anderlecht in Belgium.
At the time of that story’s publishing, Kljestan had delivered two goals and one assist through 14 matches.
In the very next game, a 3-1 victory over New York City FC at Yankee Stadium, Kljestan kick-started a flourish that would make the notion of him being disappointment look pretty silly by season’s end.
Including two assists in the match-up with their neighbors in the Bronx, Kljestan would bag another six goals while notching 13 assists in his final 19 appearances, finishing with eight and 14 respectively in leading the Red Bulls to the Supporter’s Shield.
So far in 2016, Kljestan has kept it rolling with two goals and and a league-leading six assists through NY’s first 10 games.
Inability to be a playmaker. About that…
Early on in 2015, Kljestan was having difficulty making successful passes in the final third and especially in the penalty area. While he showed vast improvement as the season wore on, he’s been a monster in 2016.
In the Red Bulls’ last three matches, No. 16 has been instrumental in resurrecting their sputtering offense and getting Bradley Wright-Phillips back into the goal-scoring groove. In the recent home-and-away series with Orlando City SC split by a home date with FC Dallas, the NY maestro notched a goal and two primary assists to go along with two secondary assists as RBNY gathered seven out of a possible nine points and scored eight goals in the process.
Exceedingly dangerous throughout each game, Kljestan has been setting up teammates for numerous goal-scoring opportunities.
Kljestan Passing vs. OCSC on April 24, 2016
Kljestan Passing vs. FC Dallas on April 29, 2016
Kljestan, and NY as a whole, ran into a little bit more difficulty on the road this past Friday night in Orlando.
Although, the Lions did a better job maintaining control and limiting the Red Bulls’ opportunities at Camping World Stadium, Kljestan capitalized on one of RBNY’s few chances and delivered a perfectly-timed pass into the feet of Wright-Phillips who cooly finished for the opener in the 1-1 draw.
Kljestan Passing at OCSC on May 6, 2016
Last June I questioned whether Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch was putting Kljestan in a position to succeed, even going as far to suggest that maybe a move to defensive midfield was in order. It turned out and remains so, that Marsch was right and I was wrong.
Sacha Kljestan may never fit the profile of the traditional No. 10 (whatever that actually is) but he continues to demonstrate how vital he is to the Red Bulls attack. The No. 10/creative midfield genius is one of the topics that will never die amongst Red Bulls fans but the man they have in that spot right now is proving to be pretty damn good.