The veteran attacking midfielder cushioned home a cross from Joao Moutinho in the 73rd minute, scoring against the club that traded him ahead of the 2018 season for $150,000 in Targeted Allocation Money, plus Carlos Rivas and Tommy Redding.
“I was able to find some space at the back post,” Kljestan told MSG after the match. “I think Moutinho put in a really good cross. I was just trying to put it on target and fortunately it went in.”
This is the third time Kljestan has faced his old club, as he experienced ups and downs vs. RBNY last year. He recorded an assist in a 4-3 home win on March 31, then was held off the scoresheet in a 1-0 away loss on Oct. 28, the same day New York clinched the 2018 Supporters’ Shield.
“Earlier this afternoon Nani brought the group together — just the players — and we had a pretty heartfelt talk,” Kljestan said. “We talked about having a good mentality on the road and playing ugly. So tonight was a pretty ugly game and it probably wasn’t that fun to watch, especially for Red Bulls supporters, because we slowed down the game a lot. But we had to get the job done and we needed three points any way possible and so I’m proud of the guys for getting that done tonight.”
On a personal level, 2018 was a shade off Kljestan’s standard he established while with RBNY; the attacking center mid had six goals and six assists. Comparatively, he had 17 goals and 53 assists across his three years with New York, spanning both the regular season and playoffs.
The trade largely came as a surprise, but it came a year after New York traded away the club's previous captain. They shipped Dax McCarty to the Chicago Fire ahead of the 2017 season, showing a willingness to rebuild via their academy.
Now perhaps the Week 4 goal is a sign of brighter days ahead for Kljestan and Orlando.
“We talked about a lot of things and the most important thing was trying to come on the road and be very difficult to play against,” Kljestan said. “So to keep the shutout and to really limit their chances because obviously, the Red Bulls have such good attacking players. … So defense stood up tall tonight and it was pretty good to see.”