Red Bulls Turn To Kljestan To Assist In Putting Out Fire

Sacha Kljestan set another MLS record this year.

The New York Red Bulls’ star midfielder is now the first player in MLS history to lead the league in assists in consecutive years.

And while he set another milestone in his career, he defers to his teammates for this honor.

Kljestan led the league with 17 helpers this year, following up on last year where his 20 assists set the mark in MLS and propelled him to be a finalist in the MVP race. Since returning to MLS three years ago after time with Belgian club Anderlecht, Kljestan has registered a total of 51 assists.

Since 2016, it is the most assists by any one player in the league, making him one of the top playmakers not just during that span, but in MLS history.

“I am proud. I saw a tweet this morning that said I was the first one to do back-to-back so it’s pretty cool to be in the history books. I’m sure somebody will better me one day, but I’m proud,” Kljestan said this week.

“I’ve had a lot of good memories and moments here the last three years and we’ve scored a lot of goals. It helps I’ve played with Bradley Wright-Phillips – I think that helps a lot. It’s [Mike] Grella, and Daniel Royer and even Lloyd Sam over the years and all the other good attacking players that I have played with. Scoring’s a lot harder than assisting so these guys do major work.”

Now ahead of Wednesday night’s playoff match at the Chicago Fire in the Knockout Round of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, the Red Bulls will be hoping that Kljestan can add an assist or two to another strong year for the United States international. The Red Bulls are the sixth seed and Chicago, a side that finished third in the Eastern Conference this year, are the favorites in this match.

It hasn’t been an easy season for the Red Bulls, who started off sluggish before righting the ship in the summer. They then went winless in September including a loss in the final of the US Open Cup only now to turn things up again.

The Red Bulls have two wins and a tie in their last three matches, a strong way to close out the regular season in light of the Open Cup disappointment.

“I think the experience we had in our Open Cup run this year where we played quite a few games on the road in win-or-go-home situations and we really dug deep and learned a lot about ourselves and I think that’s going to come in handy as we go through this game,” Kljestan said.

“We know that playing on the road in MLS is very difficult and we’re probably the underdog going into that game but we feel pretty confident that we can achieve a good result.”