Jonathan Bond is ready to experience his first Fourth of July in the United States. And he’s expecting action on and off the field! Plus, Sebastian Lletget heads back to the National Team.
LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond is a native of England, although his mother is American, and never has experienced celebrating July 4 in this country.
But he’s about to do that and then some when the Galaxy take on Sporting Kansas City on Sunday at Dignity Health Sports Park (7:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet) in front of an expected sellout crowd of close to 27,000.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Bond said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday. “I have an American mum, but we never really did much for it. In England, people don’t.
“I’ve heard it’s an exciting evening. I’ve heard they do fireworks after the game and it’s a bit of a party experience during the game. It’s usually a sellout. I love those bigger games, especially when you know it’s going to be a sellout and a good atmosphere.
“I think all players strive to play in those types of games.”
Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney, a member of the franchise’s original side in 1996, remembers July 4 games well.
“We always enjoyed playing on the fourth of July,” he said. “It was always the biggest crowds of the year usually, the fireworks, the excitement that came with that. We had many games in the Rose Bowl that were 50, 60, 70,000 (fans) and those were always really big days.
“We have another very good opponent here and I expect we will have another vocal crowd and I know the guys are looking forward to the opportunity to get back out there again.”
In Sporting Kansas City the Galaxy will be facing an opponent that is 7-3-2 for 23 points, tops MLS in scoring with 22 goals and is second in the Western Conference behind unbeaten Seattle. SKC is led by the duo of Hungarian Daniel Salloi, third in MLS with seven goals, and Mexico’s Alan Pulido with six.
It figures to be another tough test for a Galaxy defense that has had its share of challenges this season. Thanks to the exploits of Bond, the five-time MLS Cup champions have been able to meet them for the most part despite a revolving door of personnel at center back.
Dan Steres, for example, started the first eight games but has missed the last two after suffering an apparent hamstring injury just eight minutes into a 2-1 loss to Seattle on June 19. Sega Coulibaly has been a pleasant addition, but he’s played in only three games after arriving from France. Second-year man Nick DePuy has been forced to make nine appearances, including five starts.
Then there is Derrick Williams, who played in four games but has been serving a six-game suspension as a result of his brutal tackle of Portland’s Andy Polo on May 22. He isn’t eligible to return until the Galaxy’s July 17 match against Vancouver.
“Yeah, that’s been interesting,” Bond said about his ever-changing back line, especially at central defense. “We’ve got two new center backs. One didn’t come until late, one was suspended, Danny got injured, Nick got called off the bench to play. In general, all four of them have done great.
“I think the last two games really should have been clean sheets. I kind of always say that we defend better than what people think, especially when you look at the amount of goals going in (15). But I do think the last two games should have been clean sheets. The Vancouver game, when you get to the 92nd minute it’s about getting those details right, keeping a clean sheet. And then San Jose we’re three-nil up, you should be in control of the game.
“They’re very frustrating,” he continued, “but looking over the 10 games we’ve had I think the guys have done great. Maybe Danny Steres has had the longest run on the team, and it’s difficult at center back to come in and out. They’ve done great.”
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Sebastian Lletget was one of five players called up to their respective national team rosters for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which begins July 10. The others are Jonathan dos Santos and Efrain Alvarez (Mexico), Oniel Fisher (Jamaica) and Giancarlo Gonzalez (Costa Rica). Alvarez and dos Santos already have left the club to join their Mexican teammates.
Lletget will make his first appearance for the U.S. men’s national team since helping the Americans win the CONCACAF Nations League on June 6. Lletget is the only player to appear in all 11 of the teams matches during the last two calendar years and has five goals and one assist during that time.
Lletget, who will play in Sunday’s game and Wednesday’s match against FC Dallas at home before joining the U.S. team training camp, said he was thrilled with the opportunity to represent his country again despite the heavy workload he is facing.
“It’s another opportunity for myself and the group to push forward,” Lletget said. “I think it’s going to be a very competitive group and I’m very excited. Obviously I have to focus on the Galaxy and the task at hand, which is the weekend, then we’ll take it from there.”
Lletget was asked if dividing his time between the squads has been hard on him emotionally.
“I’m honestly super happy with both,” he said. “I love the challenge of both, and both ask different things. It’s similar, but at the same time very different.
“I do get caught in this in-between phase, but I just have to apply myself a little more. It’s definitely a challenge, but I’m up for it. I’ve got to do my part. On both teams it’s been going well.”
There was at least one surprise among the players called up to their national team squads. Actually, it involved who was not called up.
Right-back Julian Araujo was not among those selected to the U.S. team by head coach Gregg Berhalter and reportedly is undecided on committing to either the U.S. or Mexico.
“That’s my understanding,” Vanney said, “that Julian is in that personal struggle, if you will, trying to decide what is best for him and his career and what path is the right one.
“For me, I don’t know a lot about his options. I’ve spoken to Gregg, and I know how Gregg feels about Julian. But Julian is in one of those moments, he’s 19 and trying to figure out what the best solution is.
“That’s what I want for Julian,” he went on. “At some point make a decision, be a good decision and let’s go so you can focus on your career and keep improving and all the things that come with that.”
To say Hernandez is a different player this season would be putting it mildly. He leads the league with 10 goals and appears to be the happiest he’s been in years.
Vanney said his output has been the result of due diligence in his quest to bounce back from a horrendous 2020 season during which he scored only two goals.
“I’ve known him as this very, very good player who has worked incredibly hard in the off-season, had a lot of people talking about his performance last year and where he was,” Vanney said. “He has his mind set in the right way, and you can tell he’s a competitor and wants to be successful.
“He did all the work in the off-season to get himself in position to enjoy the fruits of his labors now. It’s great to see he enjoys it. When players enjoy it, they play better. There’s no two ways about it. Obviously he’s playing some really, really good soccer right now.”
Lletget has been impressed as well.
“He’s really come into this role as our leader,” he said. “Not only because he’s a goal scorer but overall he’s really shown more personality with us, and we have as well. It’s really been a collective effort.
“We’re really excited and happy that he’s happy.”