Sebastian Lletget Has Earned Starting Role for the United States
Sebastian Lletget showcased his creative skillset and ability to defend when the United States played Serbia in San Diego, and he has earned a starting midfield role. The United States continues to be a national team that passes the ball poorly by international standards, but Lletget is a player than can and does facilitate better passing through one-to-two touch soccer.
Bruce Arena used Lletget as a Number 8 or box-to-box midfielder, as he did with the LA Galaxy, but Lletget is an attacking midfielder who also thrives as a wing. Nevertheless, Lletget has shown well as a central midfielder where he provides much more defending, running, and physicality than perhaps many people knew about. While soccer isn’t a sport dictated by physicality, being able to not be pushed off the ball or overpowered is important.
Given Lletget’s skillset as a creative and technical player, using him as a box-to-box midfielder does feel like something of a waste, and he seems more suited to play alongside Darlington Nagbe and Benny Feilhaber in the line of attacking midfielders playing in a more advanced role than the holding midfielders.
Against Serbia, only Nagbe was threatening the penalty area or the goal in the first half, but Lletget provided these things as well as soon as he was subbed in. The primary reason that Lletget should have earned a starting role was that the ability and playing style than he showcased was much better than everybody but Nagbe was able to display against Serbia.
It’s fair to point out that Bobby Wood and Christian Pulisic are unavailable for these January and February friendlies, and those two players provide much more skill, creativity, and movement than the rest of the regular United States squad. The U.S. needs to field anyone who can continue to add to the skill-level and playing style of its best players. Based on what Nagbe and Lletget showed against Serbia, the United States now has four lively, influential, skillful, and creative players in Nagbe, Lletget, Wood, and Pulisic.
Going forward, Lletget is a player who can provide more of the things that the United States needs to improve: skill, creativity, direct play, scoring ability, and passing ability.