MICHAEL ADUBATO - Tuesday, June 29, 2010
After 114 appearances for MLS franchise Chivas USA, midfielder Sacha Kjlestan made the move to Belgian champions Anderlecht earlier this month and is looking forward to his European experience.
"So far it's been good," the California native told YA after the team's 7-1 pre-season victory over KSKL Ternat. "After a week of training camp in Holland I feel good. The coach has given me some good feedback and my teammates have helped me adjust to the new training and stuff like that. So it's been good so far."
Having joined Anderlecht after already making appearances for Chivas, Kjlestan feels that he is ready for the upcoming season.
"I'm coming right out of my season," he continued. "I only had about eight or nine days off before I started here. And obviously going to that World Cup camp with the World Cup team helped my fitness as well. We did five days straight of really hard fitness training. I feel really good right now and I feel healthy."
Although he should have made the move to Europe in January of 2009 when then-Scottish champions Celtic came calling but were put off by the hefty MLS price tag, the former All-American will hope to fulfill his dream of playing Champions League soccer with the Belgian champions.
"I'm pretty excited about it [the Champions League]! That's something I've watched since I was a young kid and something every player looks forward to in their career, playing in the Champions League; so it's a huge chance for me this season."
The Seton Hall alumni however knows that making the group stages is not a given.
"We've got to play two qualifying rounds [starting in] the third round, then there's one more round after that. Then we go into the group stage. So [we play] four games and then the group stage. We don't know who we're playing yet – the draw will be on July 16th. It'll be tough [to qualify] but I hope we can do it."
Failure to qualify would land Anderlecht back into the Europa League where they had a good run last season before being knocked out by semi-finalists Hamburg SV.
For now Kljestan has set himself some goals for the upcoming campaign.
"To play regularly and help the team repeat as champions," the Californian said of his main objectives. "And to help the team continue the success from last season's run in the Europa League, either in the Champions League or the Europa League. I hope to play a lot of games."
Anderlecht kicks off their season on July 23rd when they take on KAA Gent in the curtain-raising Belgian Super Cup that pits the league champions against the Belgian Cup winners. The season proper then starts for Kljestan and Les Mauves on July 31st when they host newly promoted Eupen.