As TSG’s first day of camp drew to a close, Mark and I decided to split up interviews.
With the players fatigued from a two-hour practice in what suddenly became a hazy, sunny day, drinking some gatorade and taking a break was the first thing on their mind, not two guys that looked like twins holding electronics equipment and asking them to give thoughful answers.
Conor Casey was up first and Mark had the research there. Let me add that Mark is just about the same size as Conor Casey…for some reason I think that’s important, like he could actually defend him or something….anyway…
Sacha Kljestan, who I had hoped would be my last interview after some warming up, turned out to be the first.
Much dialogue has occurred on TSG in regards to Kljestan’s enigmatic play and personality. There is, of course, the infamous poll and debates that went on after Kljestan lashed out at refs continually during his last MLS performance of the year. There was Sacha’s three goals to start off 2009 on the right foot that seemed to stamp him as a perennial contender for a spot in Bob Bradley’s starting midfield…and of course there was the middle of the year where a brooding Kljestan, unable to secure a Celtic contract, disappeared from the headlines and seemingly from the pitch altogether. There was even the Die Hipster Brewing guys asking me to query Kljestan on what he thought of their name; and the cheeky TSG commentators asking about Victoria’s Secret.
It seems Kljestan is a polarizing figure in more ways than one. The talent undeniable; the attitude, the desire and maturity: puzzling.
Would have been nice to get a few softball questions going with just about anyone first, even Jesse the equipment manager, before talking to Kljestan who seemed taller in person. However that was not to be.
What follows is TSG’s post-practice conversation with the Chivas star. Our Flip Video was having difficulty and gave us fits, but we only had a garbley-guck answer on one question–likely, nay definitely, because I had my finger over the mic.
You make the call on Kljestan’s sincerity, but we’ll let you in that it seems, less from perhaps his words, but more from his delivery of them–especially his final two answers–that Kljestan acknowledges his 2009 volatility and that is an awareness he is carrying into 2010. It seems like that will be a very good thing for his club Chivas and country.
I’ve also added a little bit of color on the interview for your……enjoyment.
TSG: Sacha, good practice. How was the New Year’s Eve Party? We heard Charlie was there how’s he doing?
Sacha: Charlie’s doing great. He looks great. He’s up on his feet doing a little touching with the soccer ball.
TSG: Great to hear. We heard he’s also playing FIFA with your crew. On your FIFA ’10 likeness, what parts of your game did they make too strong or too weak?
Sacha: I never really play Chivas when I play; I play more of the European teams.
TSG: You don’t play with yourself….(Dear Lord Jehovah did I just say that. Immediately I realized just how ridiculous this phrase came rolling out of my mouth. Heath Pearce was nearby as was Benny who was up for the next interview….”You don’t play with yourself…was I the only person that caught that?”)….uh…what teams do you play with? (Nice recovery dumbo…god only knows how much embarrassment could have been had with just another second pause.)
Kljestan: Well, when Charlie and I play, we go up against Gordon (Kljestan’s brother) and Robbie. We’re Chelsea; they’re Barcelona.
Admittedly at this point, I thought I was losing the subject in the interview. Perhaps I was expecting more there…then again these guys had just been through two hours. I dropped my pen; not on purpose.
TSG: About your brother, how as he influenced your game? (Now I’m rambling looking for yet another recovery…can’t US Soccer give us a table or something so I don’t have sit here with a notebook, recorder and pen in my hand?….gosh this shirt I’m wearing makes me look like a 4-year-old…I’d even settle for a Dixie cup of bug juice right now to compose myself.)
Kljestan: Well, you know my brother has certainly had a big influence. Since he was older, I always got to play with his group of friends and the speed and faster players there were certainly helped my development.
Losing the interview, I decide to just head into the two questions that I had hoped would have come at the backend of momentum. Not going to happen. To his credit, Kljestan gave me a reprieve on my stammering.
TSG: You know Sacha, you kind of burst on the scene in 2009, but, as some of those in our community have pointed out, you were somewhat conspicuous in your absence towards the end of the year, not even making making the WC qualifier rosters. Can you lend any perspective on that? What happened? (Victory….or rather engagement!)
Kljestan: Well, you’re right. During the summertime, I lost focus for sure. I didn’t play my best. I think if anything I learned this year that you need to remain focused at all times. You can never stop. Hopefully I learned that lesson and then at year’s end it showed as I was able to make it into camp for the two friendlies.
TSG: Thanks for the forthrightness.
Another challenging questions here–and Sacha, this is probably the most discussed topic when your name comes up on The Shin Guardian: Your pitch demeanor. The commentary probably grew loudest within our community after the Chivas-Los Angeles Galaxy playoff game. Many feel that your antics undermine your abilities as a player.
If you could answer that for the TSG community, it’s the one answer they want us to come back with.
Perhaps, I am wrong, but I believe that Kljestan came a bit out of his staid interview shell here. I could tell at the very least that he took the question seriously. It seemed like a community of fans questioning his behavior was bigger than just one person. It seemed, no…I’ll be exact…he wanted to offer a thoughtful answer.
Kljestan: Well, I’m a fiery guy and sometimes my emotions get the best of me. After every game I go back and look at tape and sometimes when I see myself and my interactions with the ref I say, “Did I really do that?”
I wish I didn’t do that….I wish I didn’t do those things.
My college coach always counseled me, “Sacha, don’t waste your game energy on the refs.”
It’s something I’m learning to deal with…I feel like earlier in my career I had it down and then I regressed to more of that with the refs over the past year or so.
It’s something I want to improve on in the near year.
Perhaps the last two answers more than anything resonated with me. I wanted to ask Kljestan about his nickname at TSG. I also wanted to be more combatative on his answers, challenge his replies.
I certainly didn’t expect to be doing a piece on a sincere Kljestan before speaking with him, but that’s exactly what I got. Here’s to your 2010 Kljestan; we’re expecting big things in your contract year.
Oh and TSG commentor Evan? Kljestan emphatically says there is “no, nothing” and zero corollary between his hairdo and how he plays. Snuck that in at the end.