MLS Today

Sebastian Lletget explains what fueled FC Dallas playoff return

Sebastian Lletget DAL

FC Dallas midfielder Sebastian Lletget and his teammates, like all those still in the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs, are dreaming of lifting silverware on Nov. 5.

But, as cliché as it is, they’re not looking past tonight’s Western Conference Round One test at Toyota Stadium against Minnesota United FC (9:30 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes).

“We're definitely trying to speak it into existence,” Lletget said on MLS Today before the West’s No. 3 seed hosts the No. 6 seed. “It's one of the biggest points of the conversation, but I think it's more of the umbrella and then under that umbrella is each step on how we get there. That's the way we've been viewing it, that's the way we've been speaking about it to one other. If you don't get the first three games, you're never going to get to the MLS Cup Final.

Should FCD advance past this first test, a Western Conference Semifinal and their Texas rivalry with Austin FC await on the road Sunday (8 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes). That’s locked in via the bracket, after Josh Wolff’s squad needed penalty kicks yesterday to advance past No. 7 Real Salt Lake.

While Minnesota have renewed confidence after snapping a six-game winless streak on Decision Day to book a playoff berth, Dallas have lost just three times since mid-July (7W-3L-4D). And under first-year head coach Nico Estevez, they can control games from the get-go.

“It's having the right players in the right position, and it puts everybody in a position to succeed,” said Lletget, who joined in a midseason trade from the New England Revolution. “It works like a well-oiled machine. Considering this is the first year, a new head coach, so much information is being thrown at everyone. … I think the boys, it's incredible how much they've taken on. There's a lot of structure, there's a lot of detail involved. I think that's only gotten better."

Boosting FCD’s outlook, they have one of the league’s top attacking trios in Alan Velasco, Paul Arriola and Jesus Ferreira, who combined for 34 goals and 20 assists this year. Velasco’s their club-record signing, while Arriola and Ferreira are both chasing 2022 World Cup spots with the United States.

But Lletget feels Dallas’ defense deserves plenty of shine, too. Their 37 goals against are the second-fewest in MLS behind only the Eastern Conference No. 1-seeded Philadelphia Union.

“That tends to get overlooked, even by me,” Lletget said. “But I think our structure defensively, the way we tactically are compact, we can build up and we can get into the opposition's final third. But then what Nico does well is how he prevents us from getting countered.”

Now, it’s a matter of the intensity reaching the necessary levels and following through. Or else a one-and-done playoff return at home awaits.

“You have to raise your level of awareness, the intensity that comes with a playoff game,” Lletget said. “But then sprinkle in, you have to have the calmness because there's going to be a lot of things that can distract you, even when you're playing at home.”