Arena was the LA Galaxy's manager in 2015 when the club acquired Lletget from West Ham, where he made just one senior appearance with the English Premier League side. He joined the Galaxy as an intriguing talent and, before long, became a consistent starter. Then Arena left to become US men's national team manager, where he gave Lletget the first of his current 33 caps.
Now, after Thursday's blockbuster trade from LA to New England for what could reach $1.3 million in General Allocation Money, Lletget hopes to check off another milestone with Arena: winning a trophy at the club level.
"Now circling back with him in New England, it’s set up to be something great," Lletget told media on a virtual press conference. "Of course, there’s going to be challenges along the way. There’s going to be bumps on the road. But I’m just very excited. It’s hard to tell what the future’s going to hold. I hope we lift up some silverware. That’s my goal. I want to win. I haven’t been able to do that at the Galaxy for one reason or another, but I think this is going to be the challenge that I’m looking for.”
Lletget has won Gold Cup and Nations League titles with the USMNT, but silverware never arose in LA despite three Audi MLS Cup Playoff appearances and, in 2016, a Supporters' Shield push and US Open Cup semifinal appearance.
But he joins the 2021 MLS Supporters' Shield winners after New England set a new single-season points record (73) and hold sky-high expectations for 2022, alongside Concacaf Champions League competition. He joins a core headlined by reigning MVP Carles Gil and reigning Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Matt Turner, as well as Designated Player forwards Gustavo Bou and Adam Buksa.
The Galaxy fielded several serious offers for the midfielder but New England is where Lletget wanted to end up.
“First and foremost, I was super excited," Lletget said. "There was interest around the league and things like that. There can always be interest, but until a club actually takes that next step, takes the initiative, and really kind of really shows that they want you, I think Bruce and New England did that. That’s what really got me excited. And again, going into a good team. There were a lot of good teams out there last year, but I think New England exceeded everybody’s expectations. It was amazing to watch. So, now, to be a part of that, as soon as I heard that was a possibility, it was impossible not to get excited."
On a personal level, Lletget is hoping for some consistency on the field. He's a versatile midfielder who can slot into different roles, which he believes was a detriment to him long-term.
In a Galaxy uniform, Lletget played as a box-to-box midfielder, winger on either flank and his natural attacking midfield role. He expects more solidity in New England.
“As far as positionally, I’ve always been an attacking central midfielder," Lletget said. "That was part of some issues that I had at my previous club, that I bounced around from position to position, and I’ve never been given that chance to master one position. That’s always been something that I’ve never really understood, but it’s always kind of panned out that way.
"Maybe because I can play other positions, but it’s always been my goal to master one. I think that’s one of the biggest conversations that I’ve had with Bruce is, ‘Is that the type of role that I can play on this team?’ and his answer was, ‘Yes.’ That’s kind of what he was already thinking. We definitely saw eye to eye on that."
Lletget has been a regular under USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter, though his minutes have dropped over the last two World Cup qualifying windows. The USMNT resumes qualifying in January then concludes in March, seeking one of Concacaf's three automatic Qatar 2022 spots.
"I wanted to go somewhere where I could master my position," Lletget said. "I think in this team, I’ll be given that chance. In the long run, especially coming on to a World Cup year, I need to be playing in my position and keep getting better at that. And winning. This team last year did so, so well. I want to be on a team that wins and has the ability to win. I want to experience that."