HANOVER, N.J. – Jesse Marsch had a message to Sacha Kljestan this week and the New York Red Bulls midfielder took it in stride.
That message? Don’t forget the little things.
It has been a slow start to the season for Kljestan, who hasn’t yet found the stride that made him an MVP finalist a season ago and saw the now 31-year old return back to the United States national team. Then again, slow starts are nothing new for Kljestan, who generally begins heating up in MLS when the winter thaw is over.
To date in five appearances (Kljestan did miss a regular season match due to a call-up with the national team), he has yet to score and has two assists for the Red Bulls. Those numbers align themselves to starts in previous seasons.
In the opening five matches last year, he had a goal and an assist. His second helper in 2016 didn’t come until his seventh appearance. In 2015, his first season back in MLS after several campaigns Belgian side Anderlecht, he didn’t score or assist in his first five matches.
Part of it might be a new 4-2-2-2 formation that seems to be providing some growing pains for attacking players. But it also might just be Marsch’s message which is to return to the little things that accounted for his inspired performance last year.
“What I said to him after this last game is the reminder that even when he plays in that No. 10 spot, that it’s not just collecting balls into space. It’s still about running hard and competing for balls and making sure that physically, he’s still commanding the game the way he needs to,” Marsch said on Tuesday.
“When he does, then his whole presence in the middle of the field expands to not just being a good passer to being a complete player. Just a little reminder on that and he understood it and he’ll get better. He’ll get better.”