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U.S. Men's National Team

Lletget ready to step in to vital central midfield role following USMNT debut

Photo by Jake Roth/USA Today Sports

Photo by Jake Roth/USA Today Sports

Sebastian Lletget was stunned by the moment as he neared his first U.S. Men’s National Team cap. He remembers the surreal walk towards the stadium. He remembers the moment he saw his first U.S. jersey. There it was, crest and all, with his name on the back spread above a No. 18. Stunning.

The LA Galaxy midfielder looked anything but stunned, though, when his name was called. He looked confident and concise on the ball in a match that certainly gave him butterflies. It was his first USMNT appearance and he made one thing quite clear: it certainly wouldn’t be his last.

In his 45 minutes on the field, Lletget made an impression that won’t be easy to forget. He shined in a central midfield role alongside Michael Bradley, a spot that will become a position of contention of the coming months. With Jermaine Jones set to serve a suspension for the USMNT’s World Cup qualifier against Honduras in March, Lletget is suddenly in the conversation as a potential starter for a must-win game.

“We don’t like when players are suspended or injured,” Lletget said of the potential opening, “but if it’s an opportunity for me to come in and do a job, I’ll do it.”

Lletget certainly did that job against Serbia. He connected on 48 of his 52 passes while serving as the proper link between Bradley and the attack. Little came of it, but Lletget at least provided the spark necessary to ask questions.

The road to the national team was a long one for Lletget. Once an outcast at West Ham, the former U.S. youth national team midfielder jumped back onto the scene after joining the LA Galaxy in summer 2015. He rapidly asserted himself as a talented midfielder while awaiting a call to the national team. Under Jurgen Klinsmann, it never came.

When Bruce Arena took over ahead of the 2017 campaign, Lletget finally earned his chance. Arena had seen him up close and personal for nearly two years, and the new USMNT boss felt he was more than ready to make that leap.

“The last couple of years in MLS, he’s played well,” Arena said at the start of camp. “Obviously this is a first time experience for him at the senior level internationally. He’s been with our youth teams in the past and he’s a good attacking player. He has versatility and can play a number of positions in the midfield, so it’s good to see how he fits in with this group and how he compares with some of the other players that have a little bit more experience.”

He’s certainly a different player than the more experienced Jones, but one that has the ability to make things happen in his own right. Technically proficient, Lletget brings versatility thanks to extended periods on the wing with the LA Galaxy. He’s quick with the ball and much less of a bruiser than Jones, bringing a much different look to the USMNT midfield.

The match against Serbia was a glimpse, but Lletget is well aware he needs to provide more than a mere glimpse if he’s to push on.

“I thought I did alright,” Lletget said of his debut. “I think we’re all going to get sharper in the final third, and we have things to work on, but I think I was solid and I kept it simple. I thought I made a few things happen and I thought we should have won the game at the end.

“Stepping on the field for the first time, I enjoyed every minute. It was a special moment for me, my family and my friends.”

His next opportunity will come on Friday when the USMNT takes on Jamaica. Lletget is expected to feature in the midfield once again, giving him one more chance to shine ahead of March’s crucial qualifiers.

The hope is that he’ll take that chance and solidify a place going forward. It’ll also give him a chance to score his first USMNT goal, a moment he’s now looking forward to just as much as he was seeing his name on the jersey for the first time.

“I hope so. If I get it, I’ll go nuts,” Lletget said. “I’ll go crazy and I’m sure everyone at home will go crazy as well, so hopefully.”

6 comments
  • danny kissinger

    I think his first performance for the NAT’s is being overhyped. I watched the game and was not too impressed. But, I will cut him some slack since this was his first time playing with them. While he’s good on the ball, he has a tendency to hold onto it too long. Tough Concacaf teams will jump all over him the moment he gets the ball as a great chance to cause a turnover and counter attack. Losing the ball in th middle of the field can be very dangerous and even if he does this just a couple times in a game, that could be enough to lose. I also don’t think he offers as much creativity and passing going forward as Jermaine Jones is really irreplaceable at this time, which sucks because of his age. Regardless, he should continue to get opportunities, but at this point I’d rather see Benny Feilhaber as the attacking partner to Michael Bradely in the center midfield.

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    • LouisZ

      I thought his energy was good, he was all over the field, sometimes connecting on the final 3rd which is something we don’t see often enough from our dual 8s. Him losing the ball in midfield was the only shot on goal that Rimaldo had to make. I saw lots of positives with a few negatives.

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    • TheFrenchOne

      DK: I would agree with your overall assessment. Lleget is an intriguing prospect, but I wasn’t overwhelmed with his play. Certainly he should be kept in the mix.

      I too think Benny has more to offer, tons of WCQ experience and he has shored up the defensive part of his game. Honestly, I was disappointed that Bruce didn’t put him in at halftime.

      And who knows, there may come a time in the near future that Pulisic can step into that role. He does well on the wing, but as he gains experience (and bulks up a little), I think he can more than handle that 10 role for WCQ games.

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  • Gary Page

    I have been bullish on this player for a while now, but this practically portrays him as a savior after one half in a friendly against a B or C level team. Based off recent performances, Hyndman deserves more praise. I’m not saying Lletget won’t be an important player, just that it is much too early to tell. SBI needs to calm down and not leap to conclusions..

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  • Scot Sutherland

    The ball really sticks to him in tight spaces. We saw it a little in the Serbia game, but we’ve seen it consistently with the Galaxy. Zardes has learned to make a run as soon as Lleget is on the ball because he generally doesn’t lose it. I thought there were nerves in the first game. I think he’ll settle down and become a solid USMNT player. Not a savior, but a contributor. I think he can play successfully in the same midfield as MB.

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