CARSON, Calif. – Sebastian Lletget is ready to begin his soccer career in earnest, and the LA Galaxy are happy to make that happen.
The 22-year-old attacking midfielder, whom the Galaxy signed last week on a free transfer from West Ham United after four months of toil and a brief trial during the club's preseason trip to Ireland, trained with his new club for the first time Tuesday morning at StubHub Center. Lletget made just one competitive appearance in six years with West Ham.
“I am so happy. Not only because it's LA, but I feel wanted here, I feel good,” said Lletget (pronounced “legit”), who was born in San Francisco to Argentine parents and was discovered by West Ham at the age of 17 while playing for a Silicon Valley club. “I'm ready. I've kept fit. Maybe I have lacked minutes, as far as that, but I have played some friendlies, and I have kept up in the gym, so I'm ready.”
If he debuts when the Galaxy visit Orlando City SC on Sunday (5 pm ET on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes), it would be his first first-team game in 16 months.
“My career was basically on the standstill for a long time,” Lletget said. “I got a little taste here and there, but I was never really thrown in. But I respect that club [West Ham]; I will always respect that club. I would not be the player I am today [without West Ham United].”
A bout with mononucleosis that sidelined him much of 2010 slowed his progress, and his opportunity never really arrived once he recovered.
“I was in the first team at 17, and [Gianfranco] Zola was the manager at the time,” he said. “I was really pushing to get in the squad, but those things happen in life. [And then current manager Sam Allardyce] always brought in so many players, so it was always difficult for a young player to break in.
“I was always waiting for an injury, and it never came in the positions [I play]. Honestly, I don't wish that upon any player, but in the career we're in, you've just got to wait for your opportunity.”
His only competitive first-team game for West Ham was a third-round FA Cup clash in January 2014, a 5-0 loss to Nottingham Forest, a match that Lletget nonetheless said he “enjoyed.”
The Galaxy had been trying to sign Lletget since January, but were unable to close the deal because of the rules governing MLS's Discovery process and the fact that the New England Revolution had Lletget on their Discovery list.
The Discovery process, which was recently updated by the league, allows each MLS club to place the names of up to seven unsigned players on its Discovery list, giving the club the first priority to sign them. If a club is interested in signing a player on another team's Discovery list, it can make an offer of $50,000 in allocation money to acquire that right. The deal must be accepted unless the team with the original Discovery option decides to make a genuinely reasonable offer to the player in question.
In this instance, the Revolution agreed to forego their Discovery claim on Lletget in exchange for the stipulated $50,000 in allocation money.
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Lletget can play anywhere in midfield, preferably in an attacking role, and might be most suitable as a wide player.
“He can play centrally, can play out wide – he's certainly not a winger, but he can play there,” head coach Bruce Arena said. “[Lletget helps us] get technically better in the midfield, which has been a little bit of an issue, and then that allows us to move some other players around and allows them to play in their best position in the best formation we can put together.”
Lletget, whose West Ham contract would have been terminated in July, says he can attack from any of the midfield slots.
“As soon as I get some space, I can really try to penetrate, either send a through ball or try to dribble or get some shots off,” he said. That's basically my game; hopefully I get some goals and assists.”
Scott French covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com.