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LA Galaxy 2021 Player Postmortem: Sacha Kljestan

Veteran proved his worth in a variety of ways.

MLS: Portland Timbers at LA Galaxy Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Sacha Kljestan is not the player he was at his peak, but 2021 was a return to form of sorts.

The midfielder is one of the most versatile in MLS: Capable of playing as a playmaker, a deep-lying midfielder, a defensive midfielder, a box-to-box mid and even a winger, he’s had stints of his career where he’s done a bit of all of those. His first stint in MLS was as a pure attacker, before he was recast as a defensive-minded midfielder in Europe, and then returning to MLS as a pure playmaker, where for a time he was the league’s assist king.

With the LA Galaxy, Kljestan entered his second season in 2021 and he was deployed as a part-time starter, showing an ability to add to the game even coming off the bench. Playing a little under 800 minutes in league play last year, it wasn’t clear how Greg Vanney would use him in 2021.

It turns out, Vanney kept Kljestan very much in the mix, and doubled his minutes in the process.

Here are Kljestan’s stats in 2021:

Sacha Kljestan 2021 LA Galaxy Statistics

2021 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2021 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS 31 13 1,394 5 4 20 9 3 0

Believe it or not, but Kljestan was joint-second on the team in goals scored in 2021, and chipping in with a handful of assists was also helpful. This, while also putting in shifts as a holding midfielder at times, once again able to fill in at a variety of roles according to the team’s needs.

In fact, it’s pretty remarkable that Kljestan played nearly every game. Credit to his preparation, his good health and ability to make the most of his time on the field. On a team where a secondary scoring option has been a persistent issue, Kljestan gave them more goals than I think anyone expected. And his fire and intensity and clear vocal leadership were absolutely assets to a team that’s still looking to fill those intangible qualities.

Kljestan proved his worth well enough, in fact, that he re-signed for 2022 in recent days. He is 36, and most likely nearing the end of his playing career, but I do think he’s demonstrated his value to the team in more ways than one. Ideally, it would be best if he’s not playing major minutes, since he’s bound to hit a terminal wall at some point, but he seems to have earned the benefit of the doubt in continuing to get playing time. Hopefully, other options surge forward and make it hard for him to get on the field, and he can still compete in training and be a vital vocal leader for the squad, but time will tell how it will shake out.

Regardless, after many Galaxy fans were skeptical of Kljestan joining up, he seems to have won over just about all of the fanbase. He’s a good one, and a semi-renaissance season was great to see in 2021.

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