Mike Gramajo is a beat writer covering Orlando City SC for MLSsoccer.com. You can view all of his stories written for MLSsoccer.com here.
Making his return to Red Bull Arena for the first time since being traded last offseason, Sacha Kljestan knows what’s at stake this weekend for the New York Red Bulls.
A win against Orlando City could help the Red Bulls lift the Supporters’ Shield for the third time.
But for Kljestan, going up against his former club, he’s focused on spoiling any type of celebration when both sides meet Sunday at Red Bull Arena as part of Decision Day presented by AT&T (4:30 pm ET | TV & streaming info).
"Yeah, yeah let's be honest it's not going to be very fun for me.” Kljestan told reporters following Sunday’s win against Columbus Crew SC, where he scored the winning penalty in stoppage time. “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."
It’s bit of a catch-22 for Kljestan and the Lions heading into the final week of the regular season. If Orlando manage to defeat the Red Bulls on Sunday, then their rival Atlanta United would claim the Shield no matter the result of their clash against Toronto FC on Sunday.
If New York win and Atlanta don't, the Red Bulls would claim their third Supporters’ Shield in club history, and it would be another bad result to Orlando’s disappointing season.
But that spoiler mindset played a factor into Sunday’s 2-1 victory against Crew SC, who needed a win to clinch a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and will be playing for their Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs lives themselves on Decision Day.
Kljestan credited the effort in the win to trying to end the home slate for the season on a good note after a difficult season for Orlando.
“I think the team just showed a bit of spirit to stick in the game, to stick with it,” said Kljestan. “We tried to play spoilers against Columbus a little bit, and to reward our fans that stuck by us.”