San Diego, CA – The LA Galaxy were well represented in a 0-0 draw between the United States and Serbia at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. With both newly signed midfielder, Jermaine Jones, and returning midfielder Sebastian Lletget making their 2017 international debuts — Lletget with his first ever international cap.
The match was part of a two match training camp that brings offseason MLS players into a January camp to ready them for World Cup Qualifiers later in the year. It’s lovingly called “Camp Cupcake” and usually features domestically based players exclusively. It’s also a time for players who are on the fringe of making it onto the USMNT roster to prove their worth.
JERMAINE JONES SOLID IN THE FIRST HALF
Jermaine Jones added another international appearance to his already growing list of career accomplishments. Making his 68th cap in the US’s first game of 2017, and first game under Bruce Arena’s latest sting with the USMNT, Jones went 45-minutes in a widely positive performance.
He’s playing a familiar midfield role with the US team and a role that may fit right into plans for the LA Galaxy. Jones, at times, plays on both sides of the ball for the USMNT. Springing forward when needed and dropping back to cover an advancing teammate when warranted.
While the Galaxy may decide to use him more on the offensive side of the ball, he’s capable of playing box to box — but his legs may not hold the entire season running back and forth. In actuality, he may defer the defensive responsibilities to newly signed Portugues midfielder, João Pedro. And that could help stabilize a newly created midfield.
But on a team that will be looking for a consistent source of scoring, he may be leaned upon to put a ball into the goal on occasion.
His play today was good at times with the occasional strong run forward. He had a curling shot with his left foot in the first half that just missed its target — a theme for most of the team in the first 45 minutes. And his cross in the 25th minute, when he found himself forward and deep on the right-hand side of the box should’ve been finished by Darlington Nagbe.
Jones was also involved in the 39th minute in a great passing sequence between Jozy Altidore (celebrating his 100th USMNT Cap) and Darlington Nagbe (11 caps) that saw the three players eventually work Nagbe clear only to have his shaped-shot drift just wide of the post.
Captian Michael Bradley covered Jones’ performance in simple terms. “Jermaine (was good) in terms of just covering ground and putting himself in positions all over the field where he could he try to help make a difference.”
And it was a solid day for a player trying to regain fitness from an offseason that sees him just on the other side of a major injury. He was heavily involved in the action and was probably unlucky not have gained at least an assist for his effort.
It’s expected that Jones, if healthy, will be an important piece for Arena as the United States looks to rebound from a dismal start to the Hexagonal stage of World Cup Qualifying. But that will also mean he’s likely to miss games with LA.
Bruce Arena announced afterward that Jones would be released back to the LA Galaxy after this match, due to the fact he’s inelligible to play against Honduras when the team resumes qualifying.
LLETGET GETS HIS FIRST CAP
Sebastian Lletget entered the game for Jermain Jones at halftime marking the first International Appearance for the 24-year old Bay Area native. Lletget took over Jones’ forward positioning as well and quickly went to work passing and delivering to Altidore in hopes of breaking the deadlock. Twice in rapid succession, Lletget was able to find space and create a passing lane in which USA strikers found themselves in dangerous positions.
He was energetic as a substitution and found himself space in the attacking end — although he didn’t always find the ball. Lletget is a player who has routinely reacted to challenges by raising his level of play. With the fresh confidence of playing for his national team, he could have a good start to the MLS season.
“Lletget came on in the second half and really gave us a bit of spark — I thought he was good there,” said US Men’s National Team Head Coach Bruce Arena.
And USMNT midfielder, Sacha Kljestan added “I thought he did pretty well… He has been, I think, the best player of the ‘unknowns’ in camp.” He continued that “he deserved his minutes tonight.”
Lletget also bombed down the left-hand side in the 58th minute to provide a great cross that found a friendly head and moved just wide of the post. Showing off the versatility that the LA Galaxy will need to see from him, he was free-flowing and aware of his positioning. Perhaps a sign of maturity that the moment didn’t overtake his ability to play, or a sign that he
Lletget is expected to lineup on the wing for the LA Galaxy and could play on either side as determined by the availability of other midfielders in the system.
And how involved he will be with the USMNT remains to be seen. He’s a younger answer to an older core in the midfield and if Arena feels like Lletget could make a difference off the bench, then expect Lletget’s name to be added to Gyasi Zardes, Jermaine Jones, and Giovani dos Santos when it comes to active national team players. And ones whose absences will need to be accounted for in the MLS season.