Sacha Kljestan

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Orlando City wins as Kljestan downs thin NY Red Bulls side

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Sacha Kljestan came back to bite his former club as his 72nd minute goal provided a 1-0 victory for an otherwise poor Orlando City side over a New York Red Bulls squad looking thin during the international break.

With Aaron Long and Michael Murillo away on international duty and Florian Valot to a recently torn ACL, the Red Bulls welcomed Orlando City to Red Bull Arena already struggling for depth. Then, just 20 minutes into the match, defender Connor Lade was forced off due to injury. He might have been given a bit longer to recover and return to the match, but New York came close to conceding while reduced to 10 men, so Omir Fernandez was summoned off the bench.

While the Red Bulls seemed to have control of the match, they weren’t exactly of high quality. The hosts managed just four shots on target through the match and completed just five passes in the penalty area all game. The left flank for New York was especially devoid of creativity as all four key passes came from the right. Marc Rzatkowski picked up three of those four key passes, while Daniel Royer, Alex Muyl, and Vincent Bezecourt failed to record any. Bezecourt had an extremely poor match, with just six completed passes in 60 minutes of play before he came off in favor of young Mathias Jorgensen.

As the second half dragged along, Orlando City surprisingly went in front as Kljestan reached a cross by Joao Moutinho at the far post that was likely meant for Dom Dwyer, but as it skittered behind the striker, Kljestan was there streaking in from midfield to meet the ball and strike it home.

New York began to feel a sense of urgency after the goal, and nearly equalized in the 82nd minute but Orlando City defender Carlos Ascues was on hand to clear the ball off the line. Things would get much worse on the injury front for New York, as Fernandez required a substitute himself in the 80th minute before Alex Muyl came off in stoppage time with the Red Bulls already out of subs. Muyl came back on the field, but he initially had signaled for a substitute before realizing they were out.

The loss leaves New York with just three points through the season’s first three matches and sees them fail to take hold of an opportunity against a poor opponent at home. Orlando City, meanwhile, earns its first win of the campaign and jumps above New York into fifth in the Eastern Conference.

VIDEO: Sacha Kljestan finds Dom Dwyer for impressive Orlando City opener

@AmroAbdelTaziz on Twitter
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The USMNT connection was on point Friday night as Orlando City SC toppled the Philadelphia Union 2-0 on the road.

Dom Dwyer opened the scoring in the 38th minute on a beautiful pass from fellow US international Sacha Kljestan that put the visitors through. 32-year-old Kljestan, with acres of space in midfield, sucked three guys towards him just in time to dink a pass over the back line perfectly for a streaking Dwyer. One-on-one with Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake, the 27-year-old striker slotted the finish inside the far corner for the opening goal.

Perhaps the most fascinating and skillful part of the goal is how Dwyer collects Kljestan’s pass…off his back. A pinpoint turn at the point of contact controls the pass perfectly into his path on goal, and allows Dwyer to seamlessly transition from his run to attack Blake and the net.

Dwyer’s start to the season for Orlando has been prolific. After missing the first three games of the year with a hamstring injury, he’s now scored four goals in three games, proving the difference in each matchup. Kljestan himself has a goal and two assists so far this season.

Orlando City’s win pushed them towards the early-season upper echelon of Eastern Conference teams, moving them to a double-digit point total, six points back of the leaders NYCFC.

ORL 3-2 POR: Lions erase 2-0 deficit in 7-minute explosion

Photo credit: Orlando City SC / @OrlandoCitySC
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Orlando City SC and the Portland Timbers are undoubtedly two of the most confounding teams after the first month of the 2018 MLS season, and that statement rings even truer following the two side’s five-goal thriller at Orlando City Stadium on Sunday.

[ MORE: Three things we learned yesterday in MLS ]

Orlando came out on top, erasing a 2-0 deficit during a seven-minute barrage inside the game’s final 10 minutes, but neither side put forth a strong enough 90-minute performance to give any indication they’re trending upward. Dom Dwyer scored the game-winning goal, his third of the young season, in the 87th minute.

Five minutes earlier, Sacha Kljestan made it 2-2 from the penalty spot after Dwyer won the penalty — in shall we say, controversial fashion — just two minutes after rookie Chris Mueller bagged his first MLS goal to halve the Lions’ deficit.

Here’s the good news for Portland: for roughly an hour, they completely dominated and controlled in a proactive manner — that’s to say, pressing and possession.

Here’s the bad news for Portland: head coach Giovanni Savarese made a pair of subs in the ensuing seven minutes that changed everything good his side had done for 60 minutes — Lawrence Olum (defensive midfielder/center back) and Dairon Asprilla (winger), for Cristhian Paredes (box-to-box midfielder) and Samuel Armenteros (forward). It was extremely negative and immediately gave away Portland’s stranglehold on the game.

Those first 60 minutes also highlighted just how badly Orlando are missing an influential midfielder capable of dictating tempo, circulating possession and driving forward. It wasn’t until Portland essentially conceding two-thirds of the field before Kljestan and Yoshi Yotun began to combine anywhere near the final third.

Uri Rosell is yet to make his debut in purple, and he should solve a lot of Orlando’s midfield problems and allow Kljestan the freedom he needs to do all of the above. Until he returns from injury, though, expect a couple-few more Jekyl-and-Hyde performances from Jason Kreis’s side.

MLS Weekend Preview: LA clubs square off, Kljestan meets RBNY

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It’s almost as if a marketing company drew it up for Major League Soccer.

LA Galaxy vs. LAFC — 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday

League legends LA Galaxy will tangle with fancy new boys LAFC in a match everyone hopes will become one of the best rivalries in the country.

And oh, by the way, one of the league’s best ever imports could debut in the form of new Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The subplots extend even beyond the hopeful rivalry and Zlatan. Consider:

— You have the Dos Santos brothers on the Galaxy staring down El Tri teammate Carlos Vela.

— Both teams have legendary American coaches in Bob Bradley (LAFC) and Sigi Schmid.

— LAFC hasn’t lost! Sure, it’s only two matches, but Bradley’s expansion club is thriving early.

Let’s go!

Toronto FC vs. Real Salt Lake — 8 p.m. ET Friday

The winless champs host a Mike Petke-led bench which hasn’t exactly found its footing despite its sleeper status before the season. Petke was once teammates with TFC boss Greg Vanney, and the two will match wits at a raucous BMO Field on a fitting match to start the weekend.

The Reds will also have to focus on the present despite the knowledge that Tuesday brings one of the biggest home matches in club history: the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinal against Club America.

Orlando City vs. New York Red Bulls — 1 p.m. ET Saturday

Sacha Kljestan is acclimating just fine to life in Orlando, but the Red Bulls’ latest traded captain welcomes his former club to town with a point to prove (especially given New York’s continued success in weathering the trading of said captains Kljestan and Dax McCarty).

Columbus Crew vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 3 p.m. ET Saturday

We’re sure MLS didn’t play to have its four top matches kick off the weekend, but we’ll have our eyes peeled early Saturday. If it wasn’t such a hike for the ‘Caps, we might call this the game of the weekend. The two sides have played a combined eight matches with one loss this season, and neither is particularly open at the back. With Kendall Waston righteously dodging a suspension, it’s on Gyasi Zardes and Co. to find a way past the visitors.

Elsewhere

Chicago Fire vs. Portland Timbers — 6 p.m. ET Saturday
Minnesota United vs. Atlanta United — 8 p.m. ET Saturday
San Jose Earthquakes vs. NYCFC — 8 p.m. ET Saturday
Houston Dynamo vs. New England — 8:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Sporting KC vs. DC United — 8:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Colorado Rapids vs. Philadelphia Union — 9 p.m. ET Saturday
Seattle Sounders vs. Montreal Impact — 10 p.m. ET Saturday

MLS stars begin endorsing USSF candidates ahead of election

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Several of Major League Soccer’s top players are voicing their opinions about the next U.S. Soccer presidential election.

There has been an overwhelming amount of support as of late for two candidates in particular though; former Fox Sports analyst Eric Wynalda and on-leave NBC Sports pundit Kyle Martino.

[ MORE: Leroy Sane says matter of “when” Man City wins PL title ]

Both Wynalda and Martino are former players, who are currently in the field of eight candidates that will go toe-to-toe in February’s election.

The other candidates are former SUM president Kathy Carter, former players Paul Caligiuri and Hope Solo, USSF vice president Carlos Cordeiro and lawyers Steve Gans and Michael Winograd.

Here’s what some of MLS’ biggest stars have had to say about their endorsements ahead of next month’s USSF election.