It's safe to say it's a time of transition for the Orlando City SC midfield.
Brazilian star Kaká retired and thus a hole in Orlando’s midfield was exposed, but the blockbuster trade for Sacha Kljestan this week should go some way to filling it as the team looks for their first MLS Cup Playoffs berth.
“Obviously he’s a good player and talented and that will help with productions, but I think the intangibles of what he brings, made him that much more attractive and a priority for us,” Orlando City general manager Niki Budalic told MLSsoccer.com. “Having playoff experience, being a leader, having a winning mentality – those were characteristics that we have focused on not only this offseason, but last offseason.
“We’ve been taking incremental steps toward building a team, and he’s a piece that will have us take a step forward.”
Kljestan was announced on Wednesday after Orlando City agreed to send defender Tommy Redding and forward Carlos Rivas to the New York Red Bulls for the attacking midfielder along with $150,000 in Targeted Allocation Money.
With Orlando City having two Designated Players heading into the season with Dom Dwyer and Yoshimar Yotun, Kljestan is still unknown whether he can be tagged as a DP or have his salary brought down with Targeted Allocation Money, according to a team spokeswoman.
Kljestan, 32, played three seasons with NYRB from 2015-2017, leading the league in assists the last two seasons. He tallied 17 assists in 2017 and 20 in 2016 while finishing fourth in that statistical category in 2015 with 14.
With Orlando looking for a new No. 10, an opportunity blossomed for the Lions to bring in the Red Bulls captain.
“All the GMs in the league start having conversations toward the end of the season or by the time the playoffs start and start working toward this window and from those conversations with Red Bull, we worked hard getting a No. 10, and we wanted to make sure we explored all options – both internationally and in the league,” added Budalic.
“As we had further conversations with Red Bull, we arrived at an opportunity to trade for him and it evolved from there.”
Midfielder Dillon Powers and Dwyer re-signed new deals with the Lions as well, but the arrival of more players is expected, says Budalic.
“The plan is for more signings to happen. As you build your roster, you try to build it all up at once,” said Budalic. “Of course, the priority is the high-profile positions and starting positions, just as important building out the middle and bottom of your roster that’s all at the same exact time, and we continue to work on filling that out.”