Who is Sacha Kljestan? Glad you asked. Hey, what’s up, it’s Hoff. Each week I’m going to bring you a breakdown of someone from the MLS. This segment is called “Who’s this dude?” and it’s going to get REAL.
Sacha Kljestan – NYRB Midfielder
Have you ever wondered what Messi would look like if he worked in a baguette cooperative in Williamsburg, Brooklyn? Ever been curious what Landon Donovan would look like if he took a unicycle to work as a pickle designer at a certified organic coleslaw dispensary? LOOK NO FURTHER:
“The eggs in this mayo weren’t hatched from the loins of cage free fowls? Are you Serious?!”
“He’s scary! Get him away!” as Frank Lampard attempts to ask Sacha for directions to a Dunkin Donuts
Now I’m not saying he’s as good as Messi, nor even Donovan, but you know what? He’s pretty damn good. A current MLS all-star, maestro in the midfield for New York Red Bulls, and USMNT snub, this guy can really ball. He’s a bit on the older side of the soccer age spectrum at 30, about to turn 31, but he’s definitely got good years left in him and he’s critically important to the Red Bulls right now. Let’s break it down:
Full Name: Sacha Bryan Kljestan, 30. Gotta be honest, a little let down by that middle name. It kind of balances the two surrounding names, but I was hoping for something a little more ‘on brand.’ Something like Sacha Fixie Kljestan. or Sacha Affinity-Blog Kljestan. or perhaps Sacha Portlandia-Is-My-Favorite-Show-But-I-Watched-It-Before-It-Was-Popular Kljestan. But I guess Bryan works.
Country: USA, born in Huntington Beach, California. If there’s one thing to know about Huntington Beach, CA, know that it’s a nice way to grow up. Picture a stereotypical surf town in Cali, and you’ve got Huntington Beach.
Defining Physical Features: Do we really even have to go there? It’s not so much a feature as a look. His look says “If a french cartoonist attended SXSW, this is what he’d draw.” Or is it more “I don’t support big chain grocery stores, would you like to try my roasted eggplant ice cream?” Either way, it’s a look for the ages and his headlined by his “never-say-never” mustache which even Zlatan himself has taken wind of (which we’ll get to later).
Playing Career Highlights: For as much time as Sacha spends on the angle of his mustache curl, I could spend twice as much on this guy’s playing ability. He’s already had a very successful career both home and abroad, and he’s flourishing in NY in the late-prime of his career. Sacha started off his career in various youth programs and landed at Seton Hall University, earning a NCAA D1 All American first team honor during his time there. He was selected fifth by Chivas USA in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft as a Generation Adidas player.
Things worked out pretty good from there. Runner up for 2006 rookie of the year (to his teammate Jonathan Bornstein, who has kicked around LigaMX the last six years), and the next year he was even better, contributing 13 assists and helping Chivas to winning the West. Can you believe that? Chivas isn’t even in the league anymore, crazy. Anyway, he got himself a nod to the MLS all star game in 2008 but skipped it to play with the Olympic team, and from there even earned himself a trial at legendary Scottish club Celtic. This didn’t work out so he came back to the MLS and had himself a meh 2009 season.
Check out this fairly hilarious cheeseball video from when he was with Chivas. Pretty sure you can’t watch the whole thing, but give it a try.
After that 2009 year back in the MLS, Sacha signed for Belgian superclub Anderlecht. When you combine one hipster-inclined Californian with Belgian waffle designed soccer, you get present day Sacha Kljestan. Here he honed his craft and his stache. He had a great run there, winning 4 Belgian Super Cups and 3 league titles, all while scoring 25 goals, assisting 21 times, and making 180 appearances.
Here’s a very solid highlight reel with goals from Chivas, USA, and Anderlecht. A LOT of screamers in here. Makes you wonder why he isn’t shooting more for Red Bulls right now, because his right footed hammer packs as much punch as the hand mashed mustard he’s spreading on his humanely butchered pig-thumb crostinis.
Then came the Red Bulls days. He signed a longer term deal to Anderlecht in 2013, but was transferred to the Red Bulls for an undisclosed sum at the end of 2014, picking up with the Red Bulls near the start of the 2015 season. By all accounts he has been ridiculously good though things did start slow with only 2 assists through his first 14 games but much of that had to do with a team that wasn’t finishing their chances (though even the author of that post called himself out towards the end of the year with this post). In his first season, he appeared in 33 games nabbing 8 goals and 14 assists in league play, tying the club assist record. And as mentioned above, the start to 2016 has been nothing short of fantastique.
I’m highly curious as to why he didn’t get a call-up to the final Copa America squad by Jurgen Klinsmann, though I think I know why (more on that below). He’s featured in senior matches under Bob Bradley (the last USMNT coach), even scoring a hat trick against Sweden, but that’s been about it since JK took over. But I have a feeling there will be few excuses not to have him on the team by the end of this season. Here’s a few highlights from the last two seasons:
Fun little fact about Kjlestan: In 2012 with Anderlecht, Sacha played a more defensive midfielder role, staying back with the defensive four and controlling the game from there. A very different role from his Chivas and now Red Bulls days, which sees him more in the offensive action as a traditional playmaking midfielder (commonly called a 10). He’s clearly shown himself capable of handling the demanding defensive position, however, so maybe with Bradley struggling and Beckerman potentially on his way out this could help Sacha break back into the USMNT. I have a feeling that his emotions on the pitch have held him back though in previous years. Verbally shellacking refs does not necessarily ingratiate you to your coach. He’s admitted to having an issue with it as far back as 2010, but I’m sure his time in Anderlecht matured him, as there’s been less of that since coming back to the Red Bulls in 2015…just kidding he’s still fiery on the verge of inappropriate. Maybe avoid yell-pointing the score in the face of a world-class legend who has landed more trophies than you could even dream about during a home regular season game when you’re up 3 goals because you feel affronted at being fouled. Coaches usually don’t prefer whiner/aggressor combos…so…work on that.
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 24, 2016
I’ll leave you with this quote from the infamous Zlatan, which he made during a match against Anderlecht and was directed towards Kljestan’s mustache: “That really is terrible.”