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

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

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.”

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