Sacha Kljestan announced his retirement as a professional player on Thursday, after a 17-year career that took him all over the world and began and ended in his native Southern California.
Kljestan announced his retirement on social media with a heartfelt post expressing his gratitude and thanks on a successful career.
The 37-year-old was drafted in the first round by Chivas USA in 2006 out of Seton Hall. A winger in his first stint in MLS, whose father and brother both played professional soccer as well, Kljestan was voted to the MLS Best XI in 2008. In 2010, he moved to Belgium to play for powerhouse Anderlecht, with whom he moved into a defensive midfield role and won three consecutive league titles, also playing in the Champions League there.
In 2015, Kljestan returned to MLS, signing with the New York Red Bulls. There, he operated as a midfield playmaker, winning a Supporters’ Shield with the Red Bulls. In 2016, he reached the rarefied air of notching 20 assists in a regular season, and was again named to the MLS Best XI, as well as earning his sole All-Star selection in his career that year. Traded to Orlando City in 2018, Kljestan had two disappointing seasons there before signing with the LA Galaxy ahead of the 2020 campaign, playing his final three seasons with the club he said he rooted for as a boy growing up in Orange County.
With the Galaxy, Kljestan featured in 69 games across all competitions across three seasons, scoring 6 goals and 6 assists while playing several different midfield roles and serving as deputy captain much of the time.
Kljestan was also a U.S. international, notching 52 caps and six goals at senior level for the USMNT. He never played in a World Cup, but did feature for the U.S. at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Kljestan’s versatility and various roles on many teams in his career means his playing career overall will likely remain underrated. Kljestan finishes with 99 career assists in MLS, and one of the side plots of 2022 with the Galaxy was whether he’d get one more helper to get him into the century club. But his on-field contributions are only part of the story: Kljestan is whip-smart, the one player who would be willing to consistently meet with the press after a tough loss and quite honest about the team and his performance in moments good and bad. His leadership provided a clear boost to the Galaxy upon joining, and helped change the culture in a locker room where the team was clearly foundering. Incredibly articulate, it seems likely he will be destined for a career as a pundit, but we’ll see where his interests take him.
Best of luck, Sacha, in what comes next, and thanks for the many memories.
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