Kljestan sets appearance record for Chivas USA
Chivas USA captain Sacha Kljestan wrote himself into the Red-and-White history books this past weekend, setting a record for most MLS regular-season games played for the team with 112.
He moved past previous holder Franciso “Panchito” Mendoza with his start against the Dynamo on Saturday.
“It’s important for the club because we’re talking about one of our icons and our captain,” said Chivas USA head coach Martín Vásquez of the achievement. “It’s a goal that he has hit, and I’m sure he’ll continue to make the number even higher so that breaking it will be a difficult task.”
Since joining Chivas USA in 2006, Kljestan has become something of a household name in American soccer. He has made 23 appearances for the United States National Team, was a member of the United States Olympic team in Beijing and made the MLS Best XI (both in 2008) and even appears on the cover of the popular video game FIFA 10.
“He’s turned into an experienced, mature player,” said Vásquez of Kljestan’s development since his pro debut in 2006. “And he keeps developing into more of a leader because of that experience and maturity.”
Kljestan was selected fifth overall in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft after an impressive career at Seton Hall University that saw him named a first-team NCAA All-American in 2004 and a third-team NCAA All-American in 2005.
“I was excited,” recalled Kljestan of getting drafted by Chivas USA. “I was ready to start my career and I was excited to start it with my hometown team. I couldn’t have been happier than to come back to Southern California to a team that was really building from the ground up. We were almost starting from scratch again after that first season.”
Chivas USA had endured an abysmal start to the club’s existence in MLS, managing only four wins in the 2005 inaugural season. Kljestan was part of the group of players that would turn the ship around, helping the Goats to a 10-9-13 record in 2006 and a spot in the MLS playoffs.
Kljestan made his professional debut that season in the first match of the year.
“My favorite memory is probably my first game,” remembered Kljestan. “It was a home game against Salt Lake that we won 3-0. I had my first assist in my first 20 minutes of the game. It was a memorable debut for me.”
Kljestan has played 9,564 minutes with Chivas USA since his debut, including 652 in the MLS postseason. He is thankful for the experience and proud of his accomplishments so far with the Red-and-White.
“I’ve been playing with Chivas since I was 20,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of great teammates over the years and obviously, the fans have always been great.”
Still just 24 years old, the future is bright for Kljestan. He is currently in the last year of his current contract at Chivas USA, and has been weighing his options for the future. But whether he stays in Los Angeles or moves on, he has undoubtedly become the player he is now thanks to his time with the Red-and-White.
“Chivas is my first professional team; it’s been my home,” he said. “It’s been a pleasure to play here."