For Kljestan, Good Vibes and a ‘Fair Result’

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

By ANTHONY J. MERCED

Red Bulls logoNew York Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan wasn’t completely satisfied with his team’s 1-1 draw against visiting Toronto on Friday night, but he knows the team made some positive strides.

New York (5-6-2), which ended a three-game losing streak, played a 4-1-3-2 for the first time the season, with Kljestan getting more of the ball in the offensive half . Still, there is room for improvement, despite taking a point against one of the best team’s in Major League Soccer.

“I think we could feel really good about maybe the type of game that we were in and that we stuck around,” Kljestan said. “Still disappointed that we don’t get three points at home and in the end it’s probably a very fair result considering the back and forth of the last 15 minutes of the game.”

Kljestan, 31, looked stronger than he has in some time with an assist on Bradley Wright-Phillips‘ bicycle kick goal in the first half. Kljestan has been in a more holding role as the team struggles to find a replacement for the distribution of Dax McCarty, the former captain who was traded to Chicago. The new formation looked to Felipe Martins to provide that spark with the Red Bulls leading at half time. Morale remained high, particularly after a late penalty kick that was saved by Luis Robles.

“It was the liveliest I’ve felt Red Bull Arena in a while,” Kljestan said. “That really gave us a boost. I almost got goosebumps and when you felt the crowd like that behind you, pushing you on, and you see Jesse [Marsch] on the sidelines screaming, ‘Push for a second goal, go for the win,’ I think that we were all pretty pumped.”

The question remains whether the team can build on the momentum from the Toronto game. New York faces rival New England (4-4-4, 16), which has lost only once in its last six games, at Red Bull Arena on Saturday night.

Kljestan has had difficulty translating his experience (several years at Anderlecht) into guidance for the team’s younger players, with New York facing its most challenging time since Jesse Marsch took over as coach.

“I think every guy on the field was fighting for each other,” Kljestan said. “On a hot night I think they were dead, I think we were getting tired but they were dead so if we could’ve just capitalized a little bit more on being better with the ball, but overall our mentality of the group tonight with determination was pretty good.”