Need any reason to vote Sacha Kljestan into the MLS All-Star Fan XI?
Sacha made an eleventh-hour push for the MLS All-Star Game presented by Target last night, recording his first Orlando City brace while playing a new position and wearing the captain’s armband in the Lions’ 3-1 U.S. Open Cup win over Memphis 901 FC. It was a vintage Kljestan game, the kind the Anaheim native and USMNT veteran had become known for across a sterling 15-year career.
Kljestan has operated almost exclusively as a No. 10 since returning to MLS from Belgium in 2015, meaning he plays as the fulcrum of the attacking midfield. This was where he thrived with the New York Red Bulls, claiming back-to-back MLS assist crowns and making the MLS All-Star team in 2016. He has spent most of his time in Orlando in the same position, though in a variety of different formations.
Recently, though, James O’Connor has experimented with Kljestan in central midfield to attempt to get the most out of his talents. That had previously meant playing as one of the two No. 8s in O’Connor’s 4-3-3 look that has become Orlando’s preferred formation. But last night, as displayed in the official starting XI graphic, Kljestan operated as a lone No. 6:
The No. 6 spot is your deepest-lying defensive midfielder. His job is typically to serve as cover for the defense, making key tackles and winning the ball back to then build up the attack. This is how Sebas Mendez has played (and thrived in) the role this season. But in a system where you have most of the possession, the No. 6 can be used as a really deep No. 10, directing traffic around a bunkered in defense. Think Sergio Busquets at Barcelona.
This is how Kljestan played the No. 6 role last night, and he did so to perfection. Orlando held 65% of the possession in Memphis, and Kljestan led the team with 82 passes, completing 87% of them. Kljestan also performed his defensive duties admirably, recovering the ball 13 times, also a team-high.
Absolute masterclass from @SachaKljestan for @OrlandoCitySC last night:— Evan Weston (@EvanLWeston) June 13, 2019
3 key passes
82 passes, 87% accuracy
13 ball recoveries
Immense performance. #FaceOfCity #MEMvORL #USOC2019 pic.twitter.com/gioM8QSW9T
Oh, and he also scored two goals, including this beautiful counter-attack with Cristian Higuita which won Orlando the game:
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Kljestan in purple, but his leadership and quality on and around the ball has never been questioned. He has the ability to lift any team, including the MLS All-Stars.
Most Memorable Moment
Kljestan was immense last night, but his game-winner against the Red Bulls—his former club—kickstarted Orlando City’s 2019 resurgence back on March 23.