Sebastian Lletget is having himself a stretch. But is this an answer to his critics? Or the step forward everyone has been expecting for years?
LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget was saying how gratified he felt about the team’s sudden turnaround, a four-game winning streak highlighted by Sunday’s 3-0 rout of Los Angeles FC at Dignity Health Sports Park.
He actually could have been talking about himself. After all, the talented midfielder, who just turned 28 and is in his sixth season with the five-time MLS Cup champions, has had his share of criticism since an impressive rookie campaign in 2015 when he had seven goals and two assists in 20 appearances.
Since that season, he has battled various injuries and struggled offensively. In fact, his goal in a 2-0 win over LAFC just shy of a month ago was his first in almost a year.
“I understand when the team is struggling or when I’m struggling, things are going to be said,” he said. “This is professional sports. I’m super OK with that. I’m totally good with fans saying what they have to say.
“I know people are entitled to their opinion. I think I’ve taken it well. I’m just doing the best I can for this club that I love so much. I’m super happy right now, and I just have to keep doing my thing.”
Lletget is on quite a run with four goals in his last four matches, and so are the Galaxy (4-3-2, 14 points), now tied for third in the Western Conference with Minnesota United and the Portland Timbers.
“We’ve worked really hard,” he said. “The coaching staff … even individually, I knew I could be better. We could all work together better.
“I know we’re out of rhythm with the pandemic going on, but everybody’s in the same boat, right? I think you can’t really look at that as an excuse. But I think it hit us hard in Orlando (the recent MLS Is Back tournament in Florida).
“Now we’re on the right track, but we have a long way to go,” he went on. “There’s still a lot to do. We still have to take it step by step. Kind of day by day.”
He’ll gladly take more days like Sunday. Lletget scored on a well-executed set piece in the 73rd minute on a pass from Cristian Pavon and added another goal with a brilliant scissors kick from about 12 yards 11 minutes later to complete the scoring.
“I guess it’s always something you dream about, right?” he said of his second goal fashioned off a pass from Rolf Feltscher. Lletget left his feet and sent a bouncing ball over LAFC goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega for the stunning score. “It’s always like the first, big, loopy ball that’s going to set perfect for you, and you just hope you connect good on it, and thankfully it did.
“When it hit the back of the net, it was special, especially in a Clasico game or a rivalry game, it makes it even more crazy.”
The set-piece, on which he sneaked around the defensive wall to receive a pass from Pavon, was something he said was worked on in training — but not with the best results, he sheepishly admitted.
“I think I actually hit the crossbar twice, to be honest with you,” he said. “Today, that’s why we’re all super happy because we knew how close we could get it perfect.
“It was just a good opportunity to pull something out of our hat. Thankfully it worked out just the way we planned it.”
Lletget not only was happy to pass around the credit, but he also was pleased to have a much-needed break before the club’s next game on Sunday, Sept. 13 in San Jose. The Galaxy just completed a stretch in which they played three games in a week, and he was proud of how they managed to persevere.
“To win games like this, guys have to show up. Of course, you hope all 11 show up,” he said. “Sometimes guys do that extra, and they definitely did. To win four games in a row, coming from Orlando when things weren’t right, just wrapping our head around how we’re going to win, how we’re going to get the ball in the back of the net.
“We’ve worked on it time and time again, and thankfully it’s happening. Now we have a full week [off]. It was really tough having three games in a week. Physically it was taxing. Now we have a full week to recover.”