January 11, 2017
CHANGE IS IN THE AIR
After another disappointing finish, Kljestan expects there will be some player movement on the Red Bulls
By Michael Lewis
|Sacha Kljestan: "We know that probably will bring about changes in the team for next season because it has been two years without the MLS Cup and without moving on in the playoffs."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
CARSON, Calif. -- After failing to reach MLS Cup after two superb regular season, Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan certainly won't be surprised if the Eastern Conference champions make a few changes between now and opening day in Atlanta on Sunday, March 5.
Kljestan said that the finish to the 2016 season was a "huge disappointment, sour taste in all of our mouths."
"We finished the season on such a good unbeaten run and going into the playoffs and just not be able to put the goals away to really help us move on was very disappointing,” he said after U.S. national team camp outside the StubHub Center Wednesday morning.
"We know that probably will bring about changes in the team for next season because it has been two years without the MLS Cup and without moving on in the playoffs. We know that there will be some changes which probably will have to happen, but we still have a very good group of core guys. I'm still very excited about our chances in 2017."
Kljestan is poised for a busy season, with his national team and club commitments. The USMNT has two matches on tap prior to the two vital March World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama against Serbia and Jamaica. On Feb. 22, the Red Bulls host the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals series. The return leg is in Vancouver March 2.
That's fine with the veteran midfielder.
"This offseason was too long for me," he said. "I was getting very bored at home. I'm sure my wife was getting sick of me just being around the house all day. I'm always more excited playing a game every three days when you play and get a little bit rest and another game pops up. It's always more exciting playing games. I am very happy and I'm happy that we have that Champions League game starting off Feb. 22. I think I will be full fit and ready to go."
That's because of national team camp. With Bruce Arena back as coach, no position is secure, so every player will need to put in the effort or watch the friendlies and WCQ.
"Certainly guys want to prove themselves," Kljestan said. "Everyone is starting with a blank slate and really wants to be part of this team. Every guy here is going to be fighting extra hard for a spot. I think there's a freshness to everybody and a bit of excitement."
Under former head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, Kljestan was brought back into the team proved himself to be a productive force in friendlies and qualifiers.
"I think I'm going to get a fair shot and I think have a lot to contribute," he said. "Bruce has made some comments of [needing] an attacking midfielder and a better passer in the midfield and things like that. It gives me a lot of confidence and a lot of aspirations. I'm coming in here with high hopes and I am feeling good about myself."
Kljestan, for one, is looking forward playing for Arena.
"I've heard from a lot of people who have played for him over the years he has been described as a players’ coach," he said. "He explained himself last night. He said that he doesn't have a lot of rules. He said, 'I expect you guys to be on your best behavior, make good decisions, be good pros on and off the field.' Obviously, I think I have checked those boxes that I have been a pretty good pro and I'm ready in any way to contribute to this team. i am excited to play for him because I've always enjoyed the way his teams have played, some type of flowing soccer. A good team mentality ... is something that we need."