Photo Courtesy of LA Galaxy

NOTEBOOK: Galaxy’s Lletget ready to take any MLS punishment

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Lletget’s tearful apology comes ahead of a possible multi-game suspension and Chicharito is ready to improve and contribute this season.

A remorseful Sebastian Lletget said he will accept any punishment Major League Soccer doles out for his recent use of a homophobic slur in a video he posted on Instagram.

The LA Galaxy midfielder made a tearful apology during a conference call with the national media on Wednesday and said he was trying to take full responsibility for his actions. In the video, posted last Friday, Lletget came up from behind teammate Julian Araujo, slapped him on the neck and called him an anti-gay slur in Spanish. Araujo also posted the video on his Instagram account and both players since have removed it.

MLS promptly launched an investigation and Lletget’s status for Sunday’s regular-season opener against Inter Miami CF in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (noon, ABC) remained unclear. The 29-year-old Lletget, entering his seventh season with the five-time MLS Cup champions, earlier this week issued a statement of apology and said he had not yet heard of any league reprisals.

“I’ll take whatever they give me,” Lletget told reporters. “I’m at that point. I know I tried to take the appropriate steps ahead of it. I was more from a human to human standpoint, but the damage was already done. I wasn’t trying to make up for that, and I knew whatever was going to happen was going to happen.

“That’s why I genuinely got ahead of it, but not to save myself. Whatever they do I guess we’ll see.”

There are several league precedents regarding use of the offensive language in question. In 2012, Houston’s Colin Clark was suspended three games for using a gay slur directed at a ball boy during a nationally televised match in Seattle. He also was fined an undisclosed amount and was required to attend sensitivity training.

Also during that season, Seattle’s Marc Burch was suspended three games after television cameras caught him using a gay slur during a playoff match against Real Salt Lake. Burch later was quoted as saying he “deserved” the punishment. 

A year later, San Jose’s Alan Gordon received a three-game suspension and was fined for using a homophobic slur during a match against the Portland Timbers.

USL Championship last October suspended Phoenix Rising forward Junior Flemmings for six games, the entirety of that season’s playoffs and fined him for his use of a homophobic slur during a match against the San Diego Loyal. The incident occurred during the first half and prompted the Loyal, coached by former Galaxy standout Landon Donovan, to walk off the Torero Stadium pitch in protest. 

Lletget admitted his mistake had bothered him deeply.

“It has been a rough time,” he said before breaking down in tears. “That wasn’t really my intention and now moving forward I really want to do my part.

“I hate this door has opened this way, but I’ve always wanted to be involved in social causes. I’ve always wanted to be an ally. Now I hope there’s a silver lining. Now the door’s open and I’m more than happy to walk through it and take it on and help different communities.

“It was a moment of just … stupidity,” he continued. “I’m human, I made a mistake and that’s simply what happened. Now I want to rectify that.”

MOVING FORWARD

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez said he can feel the energy as the Galaxy prepared for Sunday’s opener. He’s responsible for much of that new vibe, considering he’s eager to put a disappointing 2020 season behind him.

“I don’t think there are enough words to say how motivated I am,” Hernandez, Mexico’s all-time leading scorer who joined the Galaxy as a designated player in January of 2020, told reporters. “I’m very, very motivated.

“I think you all can see that in my social media, my interviews. I am trying to improve myself in every aspect of my life.”

It was an almost disastrous MLS debut for Hernandez, who scored only two goals and had no assists in 12 matches. But the addition of several new players, not to mention the arrival of head coach Greg Vanney, apparently has given him a new lease on life.

“I’m very excited, very motivated and hopefully I can give my best and be my best every game and help my team and do my part to help us win games,” he said.

Lletget said he can detect a real difference in his 32-year-old teammate.

“The guy’s got so much ability and he’s proven that throughout his career,” he said of Hernandez. “I have no doubt in my mind … it’s been a year now, being around him. Especially now, he is so focused and really wants what’s best for the team.

“You can definitely see it in his eyes, he really wants it. It’s really been good to see and he’s going to play a major role on this team. I think he knows that; he’s a captain in that locker room. I’m really happy to see it and I expect big things from him.

“He’s expecting big things from himself.”

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