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LA Galaxy 2020 player postmortem: Sacha Kljestan

Veteran provided needed leadership during tough season.

Vancouver Whitecaps v Los Angeles Galaxy Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images

Sacha Kljestan joined the LA Galaxy as a free agent in the offseason ahead of the 2020 season, and demonstrated the pull the club still has locally, as the Orange County native proclaimed the Galaxy had always been his favorite local team, even though he got his start with Chivas USA.

Such goodwill was certainly not a bad sign, and Kljestan was always a player who got up for the competition. I think the Galaxy were looking not only for that spark on the field on occasion, but also a veteran’s leadership in the locker room as LA looked to push on in Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s second season.

Signing Kljestan wasn’t necessarily a home run: He was coming off a poor 2019 season with Orlando City, a terrible team and a place he made it pretty clear he didn’t want to be traded to in the first place. In looking back at his stats from last year, he ended up playing a fair few minutes, more than I remembered, but coming to the Galaxy represented something of a fresh start for him and a chance to show his tank wasn’t yet empty.

Here are Kljestan’s stats in 2020:

Sacha Kljestan 2020 Statistics

2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
Regular Season 15 8 769 0 0 13 4 2 0

Kljestan’s game logs are pretty interesting: He started the opening three games of the season, and really looked good in bringing a more coherent two-way game there. He played just eight minutes of the four-game winning streak, which while the attention went to Chicharito missing that stretch and the Galaxy performing just fine without him, Kljestan wasn’t needed for that stretch, either, evidently. After barely playing in September, Kljestan then became a key player down the stretch of the season once more.

I think to an extent relying heavily on him and then pulling him for long runs is not a huge surprise. We knew at this point in his career (he turned 35 in September) Kljestan would be a rotation player, and while it makes more sense for a coach to do more regular rotating instead of a “feast or famine” approach, minuteswise this is probably roundabout where he should have been for the season. Could he have played more? Yes, but I think philosophically overall this was the right approach.

What was a surprise in 2020 was that Kljestan didn’t contribute in goals or assists at all. While his numbers had been dropping after he joined Orlando City and I certainly didn’t expect monster numbers, I do think it’s a bit surprising he wasn’t involved in goals at all. Kljestan is capable of playing a holding role and spent years in Europe playing that style, and most of his lack of production with LA comes down to that, he was asked to take one for the team and break up play more than create. Still, Kljestan is a good two-way player, and the inability for a tertiary option like him to get involved at all helps explain how ill-fitting the offensive plan was for this roster. With a coherent gameplan and the pieces to implement it (which was arguably there), he should have played a role in the attack to some extent, even if he was playing a more holding role in midfield.

Kljestan is slated to return in 2021, and I think the biggest reason is he appears to be one of the biggest leaders in the locker room, among a roster kind of dying out for leadership. I think in a better system under a new coach and with a few reinforcements on the roster, he can have a better season the second time around, too. I don’t think his 2020 was bad, but I think although he showed some glimpses that he’s not washed up, he was like almost every player on the team, who didn’t really perform at his best. There’s always the risk he could hit the wall next time out but I think he has the professionalism to be better in 2021. Only time will tell.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.