A lot has been said about how the New York Red Bulls have been sputtering as a result of Bradley Wright-Phillips’ downfall. Yet, maybe the fault falls on the team as a whole for not using the temporary shortcomings of one star man to put the burden on another star man’s shoulders. Or maybe that other star man is equally at fault for his own shortcomings.
I am speaking of Sacha Kljestan. The Red Bulls No. 10 is just another guy who has paled in comparison to what he was able to do last year. While the natural inclination may be to pin the blame on him, just like we can pin the blame on everyone else, it may be more lucrative to blame the New York Red Bulls attack, as Kljestan has been shockingly underrepresented in it.
The numbers are polar opposites. Last year in Kljestan’s inaugural voyage in MLS, he scored eight goals, added ten assists, and created 2.6 chances per game. That is a dominant force on a dominant offense.
Thus far into the season, he has been anything but. While he is still creating 2.4 chances per game, everything else has paled. For instance, he has just one goal and two assists. He is taking one whole shot less per match, despite the Red Bulls continued domination of possession.
Passing-wise, he is down a full 14% in pass accuracy. Couple that with a decrease in attempted passes by 13 per game. That comes from his short passing, where he attempts far less and has far more fall incomplete. Kljestan is only completing 68% of his short passes. I don’t know if this needs to be said, but that is an atrocious figure. Last year he completed over 80%.
Then there is the matter of ball retention. Not only is Kljestan failing to complete short passes, but he is losing possession nearly five times a game, double that of what he lost last season.
All in all, the only thing Kljestan has continued from last year is his chance creation, which, if there is anything you’d want him to carry on, that would probably be it. Still, for all the griping about Wright-Phillips and the rest of the crew, there have to be some gripes thrown at Kljestan as well. Not only has he not been effective, but he is not getting as involved nearly as much as he did when the Red Bulls were successful. Then again, with his ball retention and his short pass completion where they are, it may be for the better.
Whatever the case, while Wright-Phillips needs to turn this season around, it may be more crucial for Kljestan, as he has such a central, unifying role in this pitiful offense.