As the LA Galaxy returned wounded from their poor showing at the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando last month, there were no easy tactical fixes. But Sebastian Lletget said the team understood, at the very least, they could improve their mental toughness and limit their mistakes.
A month later, Lletget has his first goals in consecutive league matches in more than two calendar years. And the Galaxy have a pair of impressive back-to-back wins, first over LAFC a week ago and then with Saturday night's 3-2 victory over the always complicated San Jose Earthquakes.
"I think we’ve fixed a lot of the errors that we did in Orlando, and we really put our head down and worked on things like that," the midfielder said after Saturday's win. "And I think the mental aspect kind of was all we had left, to be honest. And I think it’s showing now. Just going a goal down, responding right away.
"I think normally last year we would’ve put our head down and probably just accepted that it wasn’t, we weren’t going to come back. I mean, polar opposites. More than anything, I’m happy about that."
The Galaxy trailed twice against the Quakes, each time finding an equalizer. Lletget set up Daniel Steres to make it 1-1 in the 33rd minute and cancel out Vako's 11th-minute strike, and Cristian Pavon's 72nd-minute penalty answered 16-year-old Cade Cowell's first career goal 13 minutes earlier.
While conceding twice usually isn't a formula for victory, perhaps it helped that neither goal necessarily owed to blatant defensive mistakes.
"The first one [Vako], I think we all could’ve done better on," Steres said. "The second one [Cowell], there’s things we could’ve obviously done. But it’s a long shot. He put it right in the corner. You’ve just got to tip your hat sometimes."
After Pavon leveled, it was the Galaxy who looked more likely to nab a winner, and Lletget eventually got one on an 82nd-minute corner kick. San Jose 'keeper Daniel Vega badly misdjudged the in-swinger, and Lletget fought off a defender at the back post to guide the ball over the line.
It was Lletget's second goal in as many games. And with Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez still out with a strained calf, perhaps it is the start of more regular offensive contributions from the midfielder who has pushed into a No. 10 role at manager Guillermo Barros Schelotto's behest.
Lletget last scored in three consecutive games in June of 2015, his first MLS season, when he played mainly out wide under former Galaxy manager Bruce Arena.
"I’ve been put in many different positions, because I can play them," Lletget said. "And thankfully it’s a good thing. But it kind of bites me in the butt a little bit. I think I do need that consistency in that one position, and I think Guillermo now putting me in that 10 role kind of really gives me that freedom and liberty, and I know I’m up there.
"So it’s kind of like, I have nothing else in my mind now. It’s kind of like, it gives me a little bit of tunnel vision in the sense that I’ve got to either create goals or score them. So in a way it clarifies things for me."
It's clear Schelotto trusts him with that burden, at least for now.
"It's very important," the manager said. "We see him every day, every week. We know he can give us a lot of things on the field. ... We are trying to get the best from Sebastian. And I am very happy for him because he's a really good professional, really good person. He needs to show it every game. He needs to show a little more than the last one. Because he can."