The LA Galaxy may have lost their way, but Sacha Kljestan knows that it’s not time to stop fighting — especially in a league like MLS.
It may not be what LA Galaxy fans want to hear, but veteran midfielder Sacha Kljestan was preaching patience after the five-time MLS Cup champions dropped their fifth consecutive game Wednesday in a 6-3 loss to the Portland Timbers at Dignity Health Sports Park.
If there is any silver lining to their current struggles — the Galaxy (4-8-3, 15 points) are tied with Vancouver for last place in the Western Conference — it’s that they are only four points out of a playoff spot. Postseason play, however, may be nothing but wishful thinking at this point.
Things certainly look anything but promising after a night when they allowed three goals in 16 minutes in the second half — including one score just two minutes after halftime — but the veteran Kljestan wasn’t about to abandon ship.
The 35-year-old, who went the full 90 minutes for the first time since a 1-1 tie with Houston on Feb. 29, acknowledged “we’ve kind of lost our way a bit,” but he was far from ready to call it a season.
“Of course everyone’s head is down a little bit,” he acknowledged to reporters after Thursday’s game, “but we’ve gotta find a way to claw ourselves out of this hole that we’re in right now. If you look at the table I think if we can run off two or three games in a row with wins it puts us back in playoff position.
“MLS is like that sometimes.”
Kljestan said he often thinks back to 2014 when the Galaxy played in the MLS Cup against New England, “and I’m pretty sure New England went on a seven- or eight-game losing streak that season before turning things around and going on a run,” he pointed out.
The Revolution did indeed lose seven games in a row at one point before going 9-1-1 in their last 11 games.
“Crazier things have happened in MLS,” he added. “We just have to refocus ourselves, get ready for a game again in a few days (in Colorado on Saturday) and try to get on a winning streak here. We’ve got to do everything we can.”
He also takes solace in thinking back on his first year with the New York Red Bulls in 2015. It was early that season when the Red Bulls lost four consecutive games, but Kljestan said head coach Jesse Marsch never panicked and the result was a Supporters Shield and a berth in the Eastern Conference final, where they lost to Columbus.
“Right now,” Kljestan said, “I think it’s on me and a few of the older guys that are leaders to right the ship, to get guys focused again and get us confident again. I know if we win one game we can go on a winning streak again.”
And to downtrodden Galaxy fans feeling there is little, if any, hope for a turnaround, he said he sympathizes with you.
“It’s hard to find optimism right now if you’re a Galaxy fan, that’s for sure,” he said. “I feel for them. I apologize for the game tonight. It’s never fun watching your team give up six goals in our home stadium.
“What I will say is I hope they know and understand that we’re giving everything we can to do well right now. Unfortunately we’re in a bad moment, and sometimes it’s tough to get out of these things. But I hope they know that everybody from me down, we’re giving our best effort and we’re trying to right the ship.”
Kljestan said some soul-searching may be in order.
“Unless you’re (Lionel) Messi or (Cristiano) Ronaldo you’re never really as good as everybody says you are and you’re not as bad as everyone says you are,” he said. “We’ve got to find a way to look ourselves in the mirror. We have to find a way to claw ourselves back.
“I don’t think we’re the best team in MLS, and I certainly don’t think we’re the worst team in MLS. We’ve got to find a way to just get something done and get results in whatever way possible. I don’t have all the answers right now … I wish I did.”