The New England Revolution’s offseason was highlighted by head coach and sporting director Bruce Arena bringing in three veteran players who he’s worked with extensively before – his guys as the reigning Supporters’ Shield winners entered the 2022 campaign.
“I mean, you always kind of blackout when you score, if I can say that,” Lletget said of his heart-on-sleeve celebration. “It definitely came from within. I want to make my mark on this team. I want to do well. I want to help this team win a championship. I’m here to create things and I’m here to add value to the team. To score a goal in the debut and just build on that, that’s kind of where that message was.”
GOAL: Sebastian Lletget, New England Revolution - 63rd minute
Lletget’s strike came in the 63rd minute, a sweeping left-footed effort to the far post upon one-timing home DeJuan Jones' cross for a 2-1 lead. He ultimately went 79 minutes at the MLS Cup 2021 finalists before being subbed off for midfielder Wilfrid Kaptoum, with a stunning bicycle kick from Timbers’ attacker Yimmi Chara prompting the split points.
While Arena strayed away from broad proclamations postgame – as he’s wont to do – it’s clear the veteran manager envisions Lletget as crucial to their domestic and continental (Concacaf Champions League) title ambitions. This past December, the Revolution sent a guaranteed $500,000 in General Allocation Money (could climb to $1.3 million GAM, based on performance-based incentives) to the Galaxy to land the 29-year-old.
“Well, it's game one. There are 33 more games left in the regular season,” Arena said. “We'll just let that play out a little bit before we can analyze it too much, but give him credit. It was a good goal. He played pretty well, played hard for about 75 minutes. I think he's a good addition to our team.”
"I just want to keep adding value"
Perhaps not a like-for-like replacement, Lletget arrives in New England after Canadian international Tajon Buchanan was transferred to Belgium’s Club Brugge for a reported $7 million. Buchanan offered a speedy presence to the club’s diamond midfield, interspersed with 1-v-1 dynamism and game-changing moments, whereas Lletget’s more known for his technical ability and all-around game. He's even wearing Buchanan's old No. 17.
With those differences in profile, Lletget has racked up eight goals in 33 USMNT caps and seven prior seasons with the Galaxy, initially under Arena. He joined MLS in 2015 after coming through at English Premier League side West Ham United, climbing to All-Star status last year.
In joining an experience-filled, veteran team that set a single-season points record in 2021 (73 total), Lletget finds himself focusing on the collective.
“This locker room is probably one of the best I’ve ever seen. In such a short amount of time, I can definitely tell you that with certainty,” Lletget said. “I just want to keep adding value to this team. Last year, as a team, it wasn’t the best year collectively [at LA]. For the team, individually, I know I could’ve done better. It’s one of my goals to come here to the New England Revolution and just do better and add value."
As the midfielder noted, there’s a sense his 2021 campaign in LA was a step or two below what he expects of himself. If his goal at Portland is any indication, he’s well on the road toward rectifying that alongside two fellow key additions in center back Omar Gonzalez and striker Jozy Altidore.
“It’s always a transition. It’s tough,” Lletget said. “I went from one end of the country to the other, so finding a place to stay, things like that, I’ve never had to do that before. It’s been an experience, but I love these guys, the team has embraced me and thankfully we pulled one out together."