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After drawing questionable red card, Sacha Kljestan questions chippy play in MLS

Sacha Kljestan Red Bulls MLS Vancouver 06202015


HARRISON, N.J. – After taking a red card in the 11th minute of the New York Red Bulls match against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, Sacha Kljestan was willing to own up to his error. What he wasn’t able to do was hold back his frustration with what he sees as too much chippy play in MLS.

“My biggest criticism of the MLS is the amount of grabbing and hugging and holding and fouling that goes on in the box and the referees do not protect the attacking players,” Kljestan said after the Red Bulls’ 2-1 loss to Vancouver. “It annoys me so much and in this moment, I got so annoyed and I threw my elbow up to get free of Waston bear-hugging me. It was a stupid play.”

When asked if he was pleased to see the Red Bulls earn a penalty on a similar situation in the second half – a foul was called when Anatole Abang had his jersey pulled on a cross in the 65th minute – Kljestan’s frustrations cropped up once again.

“I appreciate that we got a penalty for a chance in the box where we can’t make a play because we’re being held,” Klejstan said. “But it happens on every corner kick in every game. I’ve never seen it happen so much and have it not be called. I mean, I played in Europe for a long time and this (crap) just doesn’t happen. And here it’s just like people can get away with murder and nothing happens. Having said that, what I still did was wrong and that was stupid of me.”

Without Kljestan, the Red Bulls went on to suffer their fourth straight loss, though a pair of missed Bradley Wright-Phillips penalty kicks were as much to blame as Kljestan’s red card.

Kljestan doesn’t quite see it that we. He firmly believes the Red Bulls would have won if he had stayed on the field.

“I take responsibility, Kljestan said. “Waston was hugging me in the box, he was holding me and I threw an elbow towards him to get rid of him. I didn’t connect on the elbow. I don’t know if the ref gave me the red card for the elbow or for Waston kind of standing over me and I tried to push him back, I lifted my leg up and he acted like I stepped on him.

“I’ve got to take responsibility for what I did. Although I didn’t connect with him, I made a stupid play and an idiotic decision in the heat of the moment and I have to take responsibility for losing this game for us because if I stay on the field I think we win the game.”


  1. I can’t watch Sporting KC matches for this reason. Their defending is nothing but hacking attackers and hoping to get away with it (which they generally do). Until the league cracks down on this thuggery, we’ll get a far less attractive product to watch than some other leagues in the world.

  2. He’s right. This league is way too physical and it’s more about taking people out than actual technical ability. I hope they stop this trend

  3. Let’ keep this conversation on point. Kljestan let his team down. He reminds us every other day about his European experience. Well, why doesn’t he use that experience? Losing your cool in the 11th minute is a rookie mistake and a costly one at that. I’ve seen him play enough this season to reach the conclusion that he is a primadona. He provides very little threat in the final third but the worst part for me is that I don’t he feel he gives it 110 percent like, for example, Dax McCarty and to a lesser extent. Felipe. Kljestan just isn’t a fighter. Jesse Marsch is going to have to figure out how to fire these guys up. My worry with this coach is that he is too much of a gentleman. If Petke had the nuts to bench Thierry Henry, I would hope Marsch has the gall to bench players of lesser stature.

    • nah, just cry about it 😉

      it’s the hard core tackles from behind that are horrible and dangerous BUT have been better controlled the last couple of seasons. the hugging, the holding on set pieces…not my favorite thing BUT hardly an MLS problem alone. Happens all over the place. See England

  4. So this is an article which mislabels an obvious red as questionable.
    Then whines about MLS refs not calling holding jerseys in the box, in a game where he called that exact PK.

    One more attempt to diminish soccer in the US through whining. On Father’s Day.

    (There were more than one PK called on fouls during corners this week, btw.)

    • I’d listen to a player if he made these kind of statements about the entire league after his team benefited from a bad call. However that’s the case, just about never.

    • good comment. some here have it that no matter what, it sucks in MLS. that’s their thing to comment on. SK EARNED his red and has sucked in MLS because he’s soft. Him complaining about it is par for the course. grow a pair Sasha

      yes, the league is physical but no more so than the EPL, or the Championship, which is often a butcher’s game

      yes MLS is still evolving. anyone get to see the Galaxy game last night? quality

  5. Kljestan’s right. The “physical league” excuse has been used far too long to provide cover for plainly illegal grabbing, holding, and wrestling. It’s an embarrassment.

    • Exactly. Calling the league physical is another way of saying low skill level. Can’t match your skill or soccer IQ, but I can grab/kick/push you for 90 minutes and collect a pay check.

  6. There is all too much holding, grabbing and shirt pulling in MLS. It’s an easy problem to fix though if the league only had the guts to do it. Start throwing the yellows, across the board, for any of those things. They’ll get the message and stop it or they’ll be watching from the stands. Problem solved

  7. Questionable red? Really, he throws and elbow and kicks out at a player. No question he deserved it. Now Watson overreacts but I’m sorry Sasha deserves what he got. MLS is a physical league, learn to deal with it or go back overseas where you don’t have to play as physical.

    • I would rather bring up the game here than run our talent back over there. Much of these MLS games devolve into watered down Rugby.

    • Thank you, Aaron. Finally a comment from someone who actually watched the match. If ever there was an UN questionable red card, this was it. SK throws a blatant, vicious elbow at the neck that would have seriously injured had it connected and follows it up by kicking him in the groin!!! For SK to “own” up to this by saying he, “lifted his leg up,” and then playing the, “I played in EUUUUrope, and they don’t do this in EUUUUrope,” card is a total wuss move by hi, especially after RB got 2 penalties in this match. He let his team down, he’s been crap for much of the season, and his comments indicate that his head’s not in the match. “how DARE these heathens lay their hands on me?” Please. Theres’ a lot more pushing and grabbing in the EPL and THAT’S in Europe. You didn’t play in EUROPE, Sacha, you played in BELGIUM. All leagues in EUROPE are different. Some are physical, some are less so (like Belgium). The Low Countries are renowned for their hands off defending. Would I love to see less grabing, of course, but physicality on set pieces is one of the hardest things to call because there’s so much going on in the box. MLS is hardly the only league where that’s going on.

      • TomG.

        So you are happy with the level of the refereeing MLS gets?

        And you are happy with the physical play?

  8. This confirms what I have observed after many years of watching both MLS and European (mostly EPL) games. Players aren’t as protected in MLS. With the Dempsey controversy some people remarked about his complaining to refs all the time. I have noticed that he’s not the only one. Players who come from Europe usually have trouble adjusting and don’t appreciate what goes on in MLS. While MLS officiating is much better than it used to be, there is still significant room for improvement.

    • Blame MLS. They instruct the refs to allow a lot more of this kind of thing.The MLS ref that worked the WC commented as to how he had to adjust his calls for the WC and then go back to allowing more when he came back to MLS. He also mentioned that this was due to what MLS wanted. I think that the product would be better if they adopted a more Euro-centric approach to calling the game. Goes for announcers as well. I turn turn the volume off for some of the guys that call MLS games.

    • its not just the MLS; its refereering throughout US soccer. College play never has fouls called unless there is a terrible trip. The US Cup is a morass of physical play and fouls because they want the players to decide the game.


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