While Steven Gerrard may have been stealing all the headlines for the LA Galaxy over the past week, the MLS club’s other recent signing is making quite an impression at the StubHub Center.
Having seen little senior action during his time at West Ham United, few knew what to expect from 22-year-old Sebastian Lletget upon his arrival in May but, so far, his impact has been nothing short of outstanding.
The American midfielder has begun life in LA with five goals in his first 10 games after scoring a Goal of the Week contender in the recent 4-0 thumping of Toronto FC and, having now gotten up to full fitness, shows no signs of slowing down.
Whether operating as a No. 10, out wide or even in a deeper midfield role, the versatile rookie has continued to impress with his skill and drive, while also earning the praise of his new teammates in the process.
Speaking to lagalaxy.com following last month’s 5-0 win over the Portland Timbers, in which Lletget opened the scoring, club captain and fellow ex-Hammer Robbie Keane said: “He has got some quality. He is very, very comfortable on the ball, sometimes he just has to learn how to get rid of the ball quicker which I’ve spoken to him about.
“He is young, he is learning, he is great, he is scoring a few goals which is very important to us. If he continues to do that, and listen to experienced players, and know when to take on people, and when to take it simple, and he certainly did that the second half.
“So he is a lad that listens, and he has already been a big addition and going forward he will be.”
Unfortunately, West Ham fans never got a real opportunity to see that quality which the likes of Keane have witnessed of late, as Lletget found first-team opportunities few and far between during his time at Upton Park.
Signed as a trainee in June 2009 after impressing scouts while starring for local club Sporting Santa Clara, the California-native was labelled one of the Hammers’ top prospects under former managers Gianfranco Zola and Avram Grant, but earning the recognition of predecessor Sam Allardyce over the following years proved somewhat harder.
With the since-departed boss reluctant to hand him a chance, the former Under-23 international never managed a Premier League appearance during his six seasons at the club and made just one senior outing in a 5-0 FA Cup defeat to Nottingham Forest in 2014.
Speaking to ExtraTime Radio last month on his lack of action, Lletget said: “Sam Allardyce came in and for four years just didn’t have me in his plans. He always brought in so many players, so it was always difficult for a young player to break in.
“I think people underestimate how difficult it really is [to break through in Europe] because you don’t have anyone holding your hand. You’re playing with, in my case, Premier League players and it’s tough to make that step up.”
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Nevertheless, having been released ahead of his contract expiring this summer to allow him to make an early move back across the Atlantic, Lletget has since been showing precisely why Allardyce may have made a grave mistake in keeping him out of the first-team picture.
After working on his match fitness over his first few weeks in LA, the in-form midfielder has now entrenched himself in head coach Bruce Arena’s line-up thanks to his impressive run-outs and, alongside the likes of Keane and the incoming Gerrard, should prove a core contributor to the club’s bid to win a fourth MLS Cup title in five seasons going forward.
The gap in class between MLS and the Premier League might be more than noticeable but, given his age, recognised potential and recent performances, he has done nothing to suggest that he could not have made the grade in east London.
Whether West Ham will come to regret the decision to let Lletget walk remains to be seen but, regardless, the Galaxy are certainly more than thankful that Allardyce did not see a place for him in his squad.