Orlando City midfielder Sacha Kljestan isn’t too concerned with resting his legs, despite a short week to prepare for a match against the Columbus Crew.
The central attacking midfielder has played in every match he’s been eligible for – he was suspended for the first two matches of the season – and has logged a full 90 minutes during each of the 17 MLS matches he was eligible to play.
In fact, the only time this season he’s been subbed off was during Orlando City’s 3-0 victory over Miami United in the U.S. Open Cup.
Kljestan, 32, said keeping himself fit and ready at this point in career is easy. And he’s not buying into the notion that fatigue should be setting in for any of Orlando City’s players.
Kljestan has four goals and four assists in MLS play so far this season for Orlando City.
“I mean it’s bull-[expletive] to me that people talk that I’m so old,” he said. “I’m 32 years old. I’ve played every game of every season for the past 13 years, pretty much. When I played at Anderlecht [in Belgium], there was one season where we had 59 games in one season. I believe I played in 56 of them.
“When I look at Europe and I look at guys that play at the biggest clubs and you look at [Croatian midfielder Ivan] Rakitić and [Croatian midfielder Luka] Modrić and these guys who played in the World Cup and … look, they want to win something. They give everything they have. When your mind thinks you can’t give anymore, you always can give more.”
Rakitić and Modrić are 30 and 32 years old, respectively. Kljestan said the 17 league games he’s played so far this season in pale in comparison to the schedule he’d be subjected to in Europe.
“If I was playing in Europe, I’d be at 30 games already at this point,” he said. “I don’t know. I still look at the running statistics at the end of every game. I still run the most of almost anybody on the field in every game I play in. I’m not a fan of this notion that I’ve played 17 games in six months and I should be tired. I don’t think anybody on our team should be tired right now.”
Orlando City takes on the Crew on Saturday at MAPFRE Stadium after falling to the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday in U.S. Open Cup play. After Saturday’s match, the Lions play NYCFC at home on Thursday and then travel to Los Angeles to play the Galaxy.
Coach James O’Connor said there was a stark contrast between the energy level Orlando City brought to its victory over Toronto FC when compared to Wednesday’s loss to the Union.
“Players will be either motivated internally or externally,” O’Connor said.
“I think it’s trying to understand that, but then also trying to make sure that people go and perform at their very best. We speak a lot about maximum effort and we speak a lot about making sure we’re being the best we can be. We expect to see that in training every day and I expect to see that in games.”
O’Connor said effort, desire and determination can make up for a rough match. He’s been focused on getting effort out of Orlando City’s players since he arrived from Louisville City.
“For me, it’s very simple,” O’Connor said. “I think in any game, whether it’s a home game or an away game, you want to be able to leave the field exhausted. You want to make sure that you’ve given absolutely everything. That’s the minimum that I had as a player for fellow teammates and for myself as an individual.”