New York Red Bulls sporting director Denis Hamlett
Courtesy of New York Red Bulls

New York Red Bulls explain Sacha Kljestan trade, hint at replacement

ExtraTime Radio Podcast

LISTEN: Blockbusters galore in MLS. In this episode, the guys dig into the Sacha Kljestan-to-Orlando and Benny Feilhaber-to-LAFC trades, chat with Red Bulls sporting director Denis Hamlett and welcome Bobby Warshaw back to the show for a fun mailbag. Subscribe so you never miss a show! Download this episode!

New York Red Bulls sporting director Denis Hamlett explained on Thursday his club’s decision to trade captain Sacha Kljestan to Orlando, calling the move “difficult” and hinting that the Red Bulls are in the process of bringing in a replacement for the experienced No. 10.

New York shipped Kljestan (and $150,000 in Targeted Allocation Money) to Orlando on Wednesday, sending him to Florida in exchange for Carlos Rivas, Tommy Redding. Kljestan was wildly productive in his three years in New York, recording 16 goals and 51 assists in 97 regular season matches and leading MLS in assists in each of the last two years.

New York have now traded their captain in back-to-back years, with Wednesday’s deal coming just shy of 12 months after the Red Bulls shockingly dealt Dax McCarty to Chicago.

“Listen, it was not an easy decision,” Hamlett said. “We assessed our roster both in terms of how we can improve our team and a situation that was advantageous for Sacha and looked and spoke to different teams and saw the ability to add two young players in Carlos Rivas and Tommy Redding who we know pretty well obviously from playing them over the last three years in the Eastern Conference.

“We felt that these players have certain profiles, certain characteristics that we think would fit well within our team. And so, it’s never easy when you trade your captain, but our job is to make sure now that we continue to improve our team and make some tough decisions. This was a hard one but in the end, we felt that it was the right decision for us.”

Hamlett was high on both Rivas and Redding, but acknowledged that the Red Bulls are looking at an outside solution to replace Kljestan. The club have been repeatedly linked to Alejandro “El Kaku” Romero Gamarra in recent weeks, with Argentine club Huracan even announcing that they’d agreed to a $6.25 million transfer fee with New York for the 22-year-old attacker. That deal reportedly hit a snag last week, when Romero’s former agent reportedly demanded a hefty commission for the sale of the attacker.

Hamlett didn’t mention Romero by name on Thursday, but hinted at the reports connecting the team with the former Argentine youth international when asked how New York plan to replace Kljestan.

“Obviously, you guys have read the reports and we’re trying to navigate through that situation at the moment. That’s the most information I can give you right now,” he said. “But yeah, we do know that obviously with Sacha gone, he’s been a big part of our production in the attacking part of the field and so we know that we need to address that spot. But we feel that we have some different players who can fit within that role and we do know that we’ll continue to look into filling that role.”

Wednesday’s trade made the Red Bulls considerably younger, with the 23-year-old Rivas and 20-year-old Redding replacing the 32-year-old Kljestan. Hamlett said the club feels that both new acquisitions will fit well with the Red Bulls’ high press system, even if the team lost a bit of leadership in the trade.

“The way we play, our philosophy, our style of pressing requires us to have the right balance, to have younger guys,” he said. “And so we felt like, especially last year with the success of when you give guys like Tyler Adams, Aaron Long and Michael Murillo opportunities to showcase themselves with game experience, playing in big games and playing in the playoffs, it gives us confidence that… those guys can go out and do what they need to do to fit the way we play.”