NEW YORK – The New York Red Bulls were one of Major League Soccer’s biggest surprises in 2015, overcoming the departures of two stars in Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill to win its second Supporters Shield.
A big reason behind that was down to the team-oriented and high-pressing style of manager Jesse Marsch, who in his first year with the club had a 53 percent winning rate and as a result won the 2015 head coach of the year award in MLS. Sacha Kljestan, the first signing under Marsch and a vital cog in the team’s midfield, was impressed by his manager’s approach and believes that the 42-year-old could definitely lead the U.S. one day.
“I mean, we all think he’s a very good coach. And we wouldn’t be surprised if one day he coaches the national team,” Kljestan told NBCSports.com at an Adidas event that promoted the company’s new ACE 16 boot on Tuesday.
“I think he’s got a great head on his shoulders and his best quality is managing guys. I think that’s an important job with the national team so I wouldn’t be surprised if one day Jesse March coaches the U.S.”
Marsch’s success with the Red Bulls makes Kljestan a bit surprised that the manager spent three seasons looking for work in MLS after the Montreal Impact controversially fired him in 2012 – after only his first season in the job and one that saw the team narrowly miss the playoffs. Still, Kljestan is happy that Marsch ended up with the Red Bulls, a feeling that he says is shared with his teammates.
“We kind of chatted among the group of guys one day about how high we hold Jesse and how we all think he’s a great coach.” Kljestan said. “We found it funny and very odd that he interviewed for a lot of jobs in MLS and didn’t really get them for a few years after what happened in Montreal.
“Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise. We’re thrilled that he’s our coach and he’s rebounded very well.
“He respects everyone; he loves all of us and takes care of all of us. We really try to give our best effort for him everyday because we all respect him highly as a coach and as a person.”
Back to the U.S., Kljestan is hoping that his success with the Red Bulls so far leads to a return to the Stars and Stripes. Yet, he acknowledges that he hasn’t heard from Klinsmann about coming back to the squad and he hasn’t attempted to reach out to the manager to see where he stands.
“I don’t think it’s the player’s job to ask a coach to come look at me. I’m sure he’s watching the games and I hope for a recall to national team one day,” he said. “I still feel that I can be a positive to the national team. I have a certain skillset that I can think can be useful and unique for the national team.
“So when I get it [another call up], I’ll grab it with both hands.”
Kljestan’s exclusion from the past few U.S. squads, along with the likes of his teammate Dax Mccarty and fellow MLS standout Sporting KC’s Benny Feilhaber, has led to some backlash from fans and some who play in the North American league that Klinsmann ignores certain players. Feilhaber told reporters that he doesn’t understand why the aforementioned players continue to get snubbed, which led to a response from the national team manager.
Kljestan hasn’t played for the U.S. since March 2014, when he started against the Ukraine in a 2-0 loss, but declined to elaborate on Feilhaber’s comments.
“I wouldn’t care to comment on it,” he said. “I’ll let my play do the talking. “