The Red Bulls still haven’t found a replacement for Sacha Kljestan. (Photo courtesy of MLS)
By Michael Lewis
The clock is ticking.
It’s less than a month before the Red Bulls face Olimpia in their CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 first leg and they still don’t have a replacement for playmaking midfielder Sacha Kljestan.
Head coach Jesse Marsch said the MLS club was working on some deals to bring in midfielders but did not know the time frame.
The Red Bulls visit the Honduran side Feb. 22 before returning home for the second leg at Red Bull Arena March 1.
“We’ve got a few more things that we’re still working on,” he recently said. “Some of them are out there, some of them aren’t. Obviously, preseason is right around the corner and there’s not a lot of time to waste. But we’re hopeful to continue to add the roster. … We’ve got to get ready for a quick match coming up against Olimpia. But I like that. It gives preseason a real sense of urgency.”
Kljestan was traded to Orlando City SC earlier this month.
“We’re still looking to make some big roster moves,” he said. “I’m not going to address it now. We’re hopeful to make at least two, maybe three or four big splashes yet. We’re working on it. And we also feel good about a lot of the group returning. We like our group now. We think we’re as close we have ever been to the kind of team its necessary to play the way we want to play. That’s exciting.”
One possibility is Club Atletico Huracan midfielder Alejanrdo Romero Gamarra — aka El Kaku. On Dec. 24, the Argentine said it had sold Gamarra to the Red Bulls for $6.25 million.
Though he endured what many observers felt was a sub-par season despite a league-leading 17 assists, Kljestan was a key to the Red Bulls’ attack and success.
“Sacha was such a big piece for us,” Marsch said. “And I certainly owe him a huge debt of gratitude on how much he committed coming here to help me establish this team and what the future of this club was going to be like.”
In his first major move when he became head coach in 2015, Marsch brought Kljestan over from Anderlecht (Belgium).
“I’m happy that we were able to move him to a place that got him a good contract, a place he wanted to go,” he said. “It’s not easy ever to trade guys in the conference, but given everything, this is what we felt this was the best for both sides. We’re going to have players to take some of the burden of creativity that Sacha carried. We’re going to add some and then players who can really fit what we do. So it’s exciting right now. We just got to finalize a few things.”
Marsch said that sporting director Denis Hamlett has been trying to finalize some acquisitions and hoped to have an announcement in the next week or so.