In an effort to trade all of the players that hold their team together in order to make it more difficult to make the playoffs and fail to win MLS Cup yet again, the New York Red Bulls sent Sacha Kljestan to the Orlando City Soccer Club earlier this week. It’s not clear what Sacha did to upset the FC Cheerwine front office so much that they deemed it necessary to send him to where soccer goes to die, but it must have been pretty serious.
Perhaps Sacha is responsible for this tweet where the team from New Jersey that thinks it’s in New York tries to give Atlanta United geography lessons:
Sacha went to Orlando along with some TAM to pay him in exchange for Carlos Rivas and Tommy Redding. Somehow there was a discussion about who got the better end of this deal, but any doubt about the winner of this trade is pointless, Orlando won the trade. They got better simply by virtue of the fact that they traded away two Orlando players and any team with fewer Orlando players on it is an improved squad. On top of that they got NYRB to send along allocation money to pay Kljestan’s salary and buy him children’s Tylenol and Kleenex. In return they got the failure version of Matt Miazga in Tommy Redding and a player so bad he couldn’t play for Orlando City in Carlos Rivas, the failed DP who will replace the hole left by failed DP Gonzalo Veron.
As for Sacha, since coming back to MLS from Europe he has been one of the best players in the league at getting hockey assists, a stat no other leagues count. His 17 assists last year look really good, in MLS - in any other league he’d have a respectable but paltry in comparison 10 assists and 7 plays contributing to a goal. MLS has the distinction of making WhoScored look credible when it comes to assist counts. But it isn’t all inflated stats, his biggest accomplishment has been making Bradley Wright-Phillips look like a competent striker, which is no small task.
Aside from stealing valor in the form of second assists, it’s what Sacha does that isn’t counted that makes him so cloying. He is easily one of the most grating players to face in MLS and along with Felipe helped turn NYRB into a powerhouse of whining, flopping, shoving, and being generally overly dramatic and super childish about everything.
Here Kljestan illustrates how he spends a full 45 minutes of every game that he plays:
This is Kljestan’s “I have this mustache unironically” face:
Has somebody gif'ed this? Kljestan's exasperated at DCU face is almost as good as Kelyn Rowe's. pic.twitter.com/XKXOLEKJ3G— Filmi Girl (@filmigirl) September 14, 2016
Luckily, Atlanta United might have a chance to watch someone else miss PKs when they face Orlando, a facet of the game that Kljestan has turned into an art form (the first one is extra funny because it’s a Panenka):
KARNY DLA RED BULLS, ale Sacha Kljestan przegrywa pojedynek ze Stuverem (który 1. raz zastępuje Steva Clarka w bramce CLB!)!!! pic.twitter.com/qkH7xWkCEg— Kotleszka_Soccer (@Adam_Kotleszka) October 16, 2016
Evan Bush saves Sacha Kljestan's penalty kick (0-1 Aggregate) https://t.co/t8yLgGoyWS— Major League Soccer (@MLS_Fanatics) November 7, 2016
(There are tons of these, he’s missed PKs for the USMNT and Chivas USA, his teammates must let him take them as a practical joke or something)
His hallmark performance though was against Toronto FC who never gave the Red Bulls a chance in their playoff series. Sensing this, Kljestan flopped like his spine suddenly escaped his body and did his best Tim Duncan impression every time a foul was called on him. The key moment was the Sharks vs. Jets confrontation on the field and in the tunnel between Jozy Altidore and Kljestan in which each were given a suspension for acting like barely sentient betta fish and getting into a slap fight while screeching that someone needed to hold them back.
In place of Felipe, Kljestan now has Dom Dwyer, a player so threatening in front of goal that Orlando jumped at the chance to pay $1.6 million in allocation money to watch him score 7 fewer goals in 2017 than he had in 2016, and the entire Orlando fanbase to irritate the rest of MLS along with him. Kljestan joins as part of a revamped OCSC team that is adding a bunch of new pieces and might actually be not embarrassing this year. This is a real shame because reading the replies to the OCSC match reports on Twitter was a joy that them winning games will rob us of unjustly, but this is a team that know about committing crimes.
Specifically, Kljestan will fill in for Kaka who was too old, too slow, and too injured to be effective in Jason Kreis’ attempt to revive the 4-4-2 diamond, the most effective formation in MLS 9 years ago. Kaka was shuffled around with Kreis trying to hide his defensive deficiencies in such a hard working formation by playing him on the wing or as a second striker. In Kljestan, Kries has found a player that can get 10 real assists in a season thanks to the occasional lucky through-ball and who can contribute defensively by pulling down players that run past him, as this highlight demonstrates:
There is no doubt that Kaka is a legend, but in MLS he spent more time hurt than playing and when he wasn’t injured he was influencing his team to buy horrible players who were past their prime and not very good in the first place like Antonio Nocerino. Kaka’s unique ability to be injured, suck up a huge salary, and occupy a DP slot should be counted against him more than it is in MLS, but he came here to ride roller coasters and nobody can take that away from him.
Here is the highlight of Kaka’s time in Orlando (it’s the legend mocking Kljestan for being a cry baby):
All of this is to say that it is somehow going to be easier to hate Orlando City with Kljestan on the roster. With Dwyer, they have a striker who is the MLS version of Diego Costa, not in terms of goal scoring ability or overall quality, but in terms of being unpleasant to watch play. With Kljestan they now have a lanky 30-something toddler who stalks the field throwing tantrums for 90 minutes. Add to it a fanbase dedicated illustrating their toughness with petty vandalism and pulling fire alarms and it’s easy to see that OCSC has basically nothing that approaches a redeeming quality to the team, and Kljestan doesn’t change that.
Bonus: here’s Sacha getting hit in the face and then arguing with the ref about not being able to play while bleeding all over himself:
Double bonus: Sad Sacha getting a cuddle after missing a PK.