Kljestan Calls Recent Results ‘Bizarre’

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

By ANTHONY J. MERCED

Red Bulls logoWhat is ailing the New York Red Bulls?.

The team is in the midst of a three-game losing streak, with the most recent loss, 3-1, against the visiting Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday night. In 2017, the Red Bulls (5-6-1, 16 points) have only three more points than they did after their disastrous start last year. A major difference is a crisis of confidence and recognized route to recovery among the Red Bulls’ most important players, like the captain Sacha Kljestan.

“It’s bizarre to me,” Kljestan said. “I can’t really figure it out. We talked all week about being us, and doing what makes us so good, especially when we’re at home. In the first 10 minutes we come out and play like an amateur team. It’s hard to explain. I think some guys are lacking confidence right now and aren’t confident on the ball.”

New York has only scored one goal in the last three games — and that one coming in second-half stoppage time against the Galaxy in the club’s first home loss of the season. The Red Bulls have only 12 goals, second-worst in the Eastern Conference. With few injuries and playing in the same system that took them to first place last year, Kljestan and others cannot explain the current slump.

“It’s going to take some looking in the mirror at myself to do what I can to rally the guys,” Kljestan said. “We have to bounce back. We have a big game on Friday against probably the best team in the league right now [Toronto, which is on a six-game winning streak] so it’s going to be very difficult. No matter how good we play on Friday, it’s going to be a long 90 minutes and a very tough game.”

Kljestan was named captain after Dax McCarty was traded to Chicago in the off-season, but Kljestan’s play has come under scrutiny. While still among the league leaders in assists, he has failed to replicate his connection with Bradley Wright-Phillips that powered the club’s offense last year. He has also tracked deeper in the midfield covering for some of the team’s younger, less-experienced players. Kljestan takes the captaincy seriously and feels party responsible for the team’s current problems.

“Jesse was hard on us at halftime,” Kljestan said, referring to Coach Jesse Marsch. “I told the guys it could have been 10 times worse because it was a bit embarrassing the way that we played.”

Toronto comes to Red Bull Arena on Friday night in first place in the Eastern Conference, but without the injured striker Sebastian Giovinco. A loss by the Red Bulls would match their longest losing streak under Marsch (four games) from early in 2016.