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Llanez turns in Man of the Match performance in USMNT debut

Ulysses Llanez went into his U.S. Men’s National Team debut hoping to make a good impression, but by the time he left the field in Saturday’s 1- win against Costa Rica, the 18-year-old had accomplished his mission, and then some.

Playing in front of dozens of family and friends, the Los Angeles-area native showed off the speed, quickness and technical skill that have helped him thrive for Wolfsburg’s U-19 team. He also stepped up to take the eventual match-winning penalty, earning SBI USMNT Man of the Match honors in the process.

“”It’s a dream come true, to play and score in a stadium that I know very well,” Llanez said. “It’s just an unbelievable feeling for me.”

Operating on the left wing n Gregg Berhalter’s young starting lineup on Saturday, Llanez showed off his quick moves, keen passing eye and creativity on a day when the Americans outplayed a more experienced Costa Rican side.

Llanez was a surprise option for the second-half penalty kick drawn by Reggie Cannon, but the young winger revealed that it was veteran USMNT midfielder Paul Arriola who asked Llanez if he wanted to take the kick.

“Reggie got the foul and I wanted to score a goal with all of my family here,” Llanez said. “Paul has been here for a while now and I thought he was going to take the ball from me. He came up to me and asked if I wanted the penalty and I said yes I was confident and I have my family here. He gave me the ball and I ended up scoring.”

Llanez’s first USMNT experience was a memorable one, not only for his outstanding performance on Saturday, but also because of the month-long camp he went through as one of just two European-based players in the squad, and the second-youngest player in the group.

“It’s been a long and hard month, the first two weeks was tough for us with fitness, but overall I think we did an amazing job in the camp,” Llanez said. “It’s like a brotherhood here and they made me feel welcome. I feel that it should be this way for everyone who comes in for the first time.”

Llanez is still waiting for his first-team debut for Bundesliga side Wolfsburg, but he now returns to Germany with confidence after a successful USMNT camp, and after boosting his standing in the stacked U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team player pool vying for places in the March Olympic qualifying tournament.

“I’m going to go back and use these tools that I’ve learned from camp at Wolfsburg,” Llanez said. “The coaching staff here has helped me become a better winger and now I need to do that at club and international level going forward.”


  1. Love Llanez game, since ‘19 U20 Concacaf Tournament! My vote goes to Reggie Cannon -MOTM! He covered for Zimm & Long many times on defense, stopping scoring opportunities, as well as involved an attacking. He covered a lot of ground, and made it look easy. I’m looking forward to a big ‘20 for him. This time last year, some of us knew he had skills. He wants the starting RB, and he showed it on the pitch. Still, a long way to go. What a difference a year makes!! #TalkaboutItBaboutIt

  2. Llanez was definitely a bright spot! Considering the Tico’s were willing to concede or not capable of possession and consequently played compact and organized playing behind the ball on defense. Llanez really did not need to defend and routinely had the ball in the offensive third. A few things I noticed in his game was a propensity to want the ball on his right foot for possession and to shoot. He can get away with these tendencies in CONCACAF but against top 20 teams in the World could be suspect. The other thing I want to see from him is if he can run in space and does he have closing speed? Yet an exciting performance for him to excel given the opportunity.
    Two players that disappointed was Lletget and Arriola. They just lack the ability to pick out a pass that opens up the defense or beat a guy off the dribble in the 18 and follow it up with a dangerous shot or killer pass.
    JacksonY looked good in the first half but kind of faded in the second half. Comfortable on the ball and lead by example

    • I agree with your game assessment of Lletget and Arriola. However, I disagree with your comment that Lletget lacks the ability to make the good pass to open up a defense. When playing as CM for the Galaxy he has done very well in that role. Except for his corner kicks which were pretty good, he just had a lousy game vs. CR. He is much better than what he showed. I haven;t seen enough of Arriola in his club play, but think he is also capable of better.

    • Couldn’t agree more with every word TWOMILERULE said. Happy to see the young USMNT players showed up with plenty of positive performances. Disappointed with the “relative” USMNT veterans. If Lletget was more clinical and luckier, he could have a hat trick on Saturday. Against top tier teams such as Mexico & Costa Rica in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifications, opponents’ defenses will key on Pulisic, McKennie, Adams, Sargent, etc. If Lletget and Arriola are lucky enough to be on the pitch, they maybe open to get one or two rare chances, the way Lletget finished was horrible on Saturday. In more than one occasions, Zimmerman forced his “build from the back” passes (when he was not passing the ball backwards most of the times) to midfield teammates in tight spaces in the middle of the field. Against quality teams, that automatically triggers a counter by the opponent while his teammates get caught up in the other side of the half. Jackson Yueill sprayed beautiful diagonal long/medium range passes to our wingbacks and teammates, but apparently stopped doing that in the 2nd half. I did not understand why but just thought Costa Rica made adjustments to close down the spaces on the 2 sides in the 2nd half just to give Yueill benefit of doubt.


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