Sacha Kljestan: “I wish all my ex-teammates all the best, but I don’t want that to happen on my watch. So, yeah we’ll try to play spoilers next week.” (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Former Sacha Kljestan loves parties. He just doesn’t want to attend one at Red Bull Arena Sunday.
So, the former Red Bulls midfielder will do everything in his power to make sure New York does not celebrate winning the Supporters Shield when Orlando City SC comes to town. Of course, even if the Red Bulls (21-7-5, 68 points) win, they still will need help from Toronto FC, which faces first-place Atlanta United (21-6-6, 69).
“Yeah, yeah, let’s be honest it’s not going to be very fun for me.” Kljestan told reporters after Orlando City defeated Columbus Crew SC last weekend. “Personally, if we go up to New York and watch them win the Supporters’ Shield. Honestly, I wish all my ex-teammates all the best, but I don’t want that to happen on my watch. So, yeah we’ll try to play spoilers next week.”
Kljestan converted a penalty kick in stoppage time to lift the Lions to a 2-1 victory.
“If I was him I’d be trying to win, too,” Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips said. “Their season hasn’t been great, so they’re going to have to get something out of it. For him, that’ll be a big accomplishment, so he can stop us from winning the Shield. I don’t see him playing any other way. I want him to come and play well, so we’ll be up for the game too and we’ll see what happens.”
Kljestan, a member of the Red Bulls’ team that won the 2015 Supporters Shield, has endured his worst season, at least statistically, in Major League Soccer in years. After averaging 17 assists a season over three years with New York, the former Seton Hall standout has only six goals and six assists for one of the most underachieving sides in the league. Orlando City (8-21-4, 28) is tied with the Colorado Rapids for the second least number of points (28) this season and is in last and 11th-place in the Eastern Conference.
Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas realized that Kljestan will be motivated to do well against his former teammates.
“Because of Sacha and guys like Will Johnson, these guys know us well,” he said. “We had a tough game at their place earlier in the year, where they won. There’s a link – CJ Brown, one of our coaches coached there last.. There’s some close ties there, but we have a lot to play for and we’re at home. The playoffs are coming, there’s a small chance that the Supporters’ Shield can be ours on our home field.
“The guys know the result Orlando just had and in maybe a decisive way they played against Columbus and took those points, so they’ll be tough. We’ll be prepared to play against them. Hopefully from the start we’ll understand what that game requires and what the whole game and the points mean.”
To make room for new midfielder Kaku, the Red Bulls shipped Kljestan to Orlando in the offseason, along with $150,000 in Targeted Allocation Money in exchange for forward Carlos Rivas and defender Tommy Redding. Neither player has played much this season.