CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget will be the first to admit this season hasn’t gone as he would have liked. Not even close.
The 26-year-old, now in his fifth season, has only one goal and two assists in 18 appearances. In fact, he hasn’t scored since a 3-2 victory over Minnesota United on March 16.
He has battled injuries, the latest a pelvic ailment that forced him to miss three consecutive games until a 34-minute relief stint in last Saturday’s 4-0 loss in Portland. He originally suffered the injury after playing just 10 minutes in a 2-1 loss to New England on June 2, tried to play through it and eventually went to the sideline for good after struggling through the first half of a 3-0 loss to San Jose on June 29.
Yes, he agreed, it’s been frustrating.
“Big time,” he said Wednesday as the Galaxy prepared for Saturday’s showdown against defending MLS Cup champion Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (2 p.m., Fox). “In this league, people care a lot about stats and things like that, but I still think team and how I can help the team out.
“We changed formations, I changed positions. Sometimes it’s tough for a player to kind of find his feet. I thought we had a good thing at the beginning of the season, then we brought in some players and we kind of shifted things around. I’ve had to shift around as well, and I couldn’t get that consistency.
“Regardless,” he went on, “there’s still many games to go, and I believe things will be all right.”
He took a welcomed step in that direction in Portland when he replaced Julian Araujo early in the second half.
“Yeah, it was nice,” he said of returning to action. “Missing a couple of games, thankfully we were doing well in that little spell. There wasn’t that extra pressure to come back because the team was doing all right.
“I felt great, and I think I’m going to finish the season strong now.”
Lletget said his forced absence from the lineup will pay off in the long run – health permitting, of course.
“Sometimes you just have to take some time off and deal with it,” he said. “I had sort of an inflammation, and there’s not much you can do with it. It was pretty painful. I tried to play through it, and I did the best I could, especially when we were missing guys going to the Gold Cup and stuff.
“It’s been a little bit of a rough time, but I feel good.”
He also felt good about the Galaxy’s chances against Atlanta, despite the fact they are coming off a 4-0 loss in Portland in which two players (Diego Polenta and Efrain Alvarez) were red-carded, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic received a yellow card for arguing with referee Allen Chapman. The trio will not be available this weekend.
“It doesn’t help missing three key guys,” Lletget said. “It’s going to be tough, but then again we’ve got to look forward, see what we have available and deal with it.
“I do think we will create chances. I think we have enough to beat them, even if it’s on their turf. We know it’s going to be tough, but we have to go in there confident and play our game.”
Central defender Dan Steres has been one of the Galaxy’s most consistent performers this season, but one play last Saturday in Portland could tarnish that deserved and hard-earned reputation.
It occurred in the 41st minute when the Timbers’ Diego Valeri beat Steres badly en route to scoring the second goal of the match. Valeri, matched up with Steres one on one, dribbled the ball through the Galaxy player’s legs and scored from a sharp angle.
“I was a little off that day,” Steres recalled. “He (Valeri) took a long touch, and I thought I could get there. I took a bad angle, he took a good touch through and scored.
“It is what it is, and you just move on. It’s just one play. If it happens again, I’ll do it differently; I know that.”
The play touched off a flurry of criticism on social media, but Steres said he wasn’t bothered by the negative remarks. Steres, in fact, has been the object of many fans’ scorn this season but the five-year MLS veteran, now in his fourth year with Los Angeles, has no problem with the recurring vitriol.
“If they like to pick on me, that’s fair,” he said. “That’s what social media is … people finding one thing and jumping all over it or finding one amazing play and jumping all over that.
“Most of them (critics), if you follow them and know their history, they probably don’t know the game very well and they’re picking out the plays they want to. But that’s fine. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.”
MEETING THE CHALLENGE
The future does not bode well for the five-time MLS Cup champions as they prepare for Saturday’s match in Atlanta, but head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto hasn’t lost faith in his team.
Yes, the Galaxy will be without Ibrahimovic, Polenta and Efrain Alvarez, but he still likes his team’s ability to regroup.
“We know, sometimes, during the year it can happen,” he said of player absences. “We have to have a good attitude in going to Atlanta and try to win.
“We know we are losing some very important players, but we’re confident in what we have.”
There was some good news, however, in that he will have everyone else available with the exception of Juninho and Romain Alessandrini. Even Chris Pontius, who has been battling a hamstring injury and has been an unused sub in the last six matches, is good to go.
Schelotto understandably is curious to see how his team responds. Asked if Saturday’s game and a stretch that also includes a road game at D.C. United, followed by home contests against FC Dallas and Seattle, could be a true test of his team’s character, replied, “It’s possible. It’s possible.
“Sometimes when you fight in these kinds of games you are getting more attitude or personality for the future,” he said. “It’s very important how you show yourself to other teams.
“We need to keep growing step by step. I think the next four games, Atlanta and D.C. (United) away and Dallas and Seattle here will be very important for us to show what we are talking about.”