Sacha Kljestan and Orlando City are still very much in an adjustment phase. The veteran midfielder is still getting familiar with his new home after missing the season’s opening matches due to suspension while the Lions have struggled to find much cohesion on the field.
But now, as Orlando looks for its first win, the club’s star midfielder will come face to face with a familiar club.
Kljestan is set to face his former team, the New York Red Bulls, for the first time this weekend as he and Orlando City look to put together the team’s first complete performance of the season. The Red Bulls visit Orlando riding the high of a successful CONCACAF Champions League campaign as well as seven points from the season’s opening three games.
For Kljestan, the match is meaningful, for more than one reason.
“I’m excited. I feel good. I’m excited to play. I want to get our first win, and even better if it can come against my former team,” he said. “It will be fun to see the guys again. I spent a few good years and have some very good relationships with those guys.
“You always want to win against your friends and your brothers, so I want to win this game very badly.”
Thus far at least, Orlando City has yet to find much success following a busy offseason. With Kljestan out of the lineup, the club grabbed one point from two games, a disappointing start. He returned against a rival in NYCFC, but the Lions fell to a shorthanded team playing without David Villa.
Kljestan said there hasn’t been any trash talk between himself and his former teammates, but there has been plenty of communication. With the Red Bulls set to remain in town following the match, Kljestan is hoping to have his old teammates over for a pool party to celebrate what he hopes will be Orlando City’s victory.
On both sides, there’s plenty of familiarity. Kljestan spoke of the form of Bradley Wright-Phillips and the leadership of Luis Robles, while those on the other side of the match also expect a big game from the veteran midfielder himself.
“We are going to face Sacha, who we all know is a great player and he is going to be up for the game so that in itself is going to be a challenge,” said defender Aaron Long. “They have a good attacking group and I don’t think they have gotten the results they have been looking for yet so they are going to be desperate and they are going to be home in front of their fans so it is really going to be tough game.”
Both sides have plenty of motivation. For Orlando, it’s a chance to ease some early-season doubts by picking up a win over a fellow Eastern Conference contender. For the Red Bulls, it’s an opportunity to justify this past offseason’s big decision by demonstrating that the club has pieces in place to survive and thrive following Kljestan’s departure.
“He’s definitely up for the game, but we are as well,” added midfielder Danny Royer. “We’re looking forward to seeing him again on the side of the field, but on the field, we’re looking for three points no matter what.”