MLS 2017 oral history, Part 3: Sebastian Lletget gets big break, then heartbreak

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/players/sebastian-lletget/" data-ylk="slk:Sebastian Lletget">Sebastian Lletget</a>’s 2017 season with the Galaxy and USMNT turned from dream to nightmare in the blink of an eye. (Getty)
Sebastian Lletget’s 2017 season with the Galaxy and USMNT turned from dream to nightmare in the blink of an eye. (Getty)

Throughout the 2017 Major League Soccer season, FC Yahoo had regular conversations with four well-known players. They spoke candidly about the swings of the long and grueling season and their hopes as the playoffs crept ever nearer. In the third installment, Sebastian Lletget, whose season began on a high but was soon derailed.

Date: March 6
Record: 0-1-0 (Galaxy)

For the first time in his career, Lletget, 24 at the time, earned a January camp national team call-up. He returned to the Galaxy riding high, but also learning on the fly.

Lletget: “I came back to the Galaxy, couldn’t wait to play soccer again, wanted to pick up where I left off. But it was a little bit different, because fitness-wise, and even technically, the players at the Galaxy weren’t there yet. Because we started three, four weeks before them. So I had to adjust, in a way. I played 90 minutes against Jamaica. For me, that was a competitive game. That was like a season opener. I was preparing for it like that. But then I had to wait another month or so. I could only play a certain amount of minutes in certain games. It was like putting a little bit of a pause.”

The pause didn’t do anything to curtail Lletget’s confidence. But he knew that managing separate commitments to club and country would be a new challenge for him.

“It’s a real skill that I’ll have to learn – to play good with the national team and then come back to club soccer, you’ve gotta be just as good, or better. You have to be good for both. I know it’s not easy. The travel, people don’t think about those things. They just assume, if you’re a player, you can go to Brazil and play a national team game, and then the next two days, fly back and play another 90 minutes, do it all over again. I haven’t had to do it just yet, but it’s something to think about.

“It’s one of my goals this year, to make that [national team] roster. It’s a lot to juggle at the moment, it’s a lot, it’s overwhelming, but I think as time goes by it’ll get easier. As you get that much more experience, you find your way of dealing with those things, managing your body, and your mentality.”

Date: May 4
Record: 1-0-2 (U.S. World Cup qualifying final round)

Lletget’s competitive national team debut had gotten off to a sensational start. He scored less than five minutes into a crucial World Cup qualifier against Honduras, one the United States would win 6-0. But 10 minutes later, he was writhing in pain with a foot injury near the right sideline. He was knocked out of the game.

Lletget: “There was a ball played up to Geoff Cameron, and he sort of flicked it on. I read it, and I saw the space behind the defender. I knew he was coming on my left side. And I took a big touch down the line. And I was gone, I had so much space to run into. But he caught me – he didn’t even catch me with his cleat, he caught me with his knee, and sort of whipped my left foot towards him. … And my foot was a balloon immediately. I was even tempted to rip off my cleat because I couldn’t even get it off.

“Crazy how it all played out. I’m literally living a dream, representing my country at the highest level. … It’s my hometown, my family, my friends, everybody’s there … The first six minutes, I’m literally on top of the world, as far as the dream start. And I even felt at that point, ‘I’m gonna take this game over.’

“Now, I look back on it, it must have been written, honestly. … It’s the most surreal, bizarre feeling I’ve ever felt in my life. And the worst part, really, when I flew back to L.A. for my scan, everybody was more worried about a fracture. So we weren’t really paying attention to anything else. The symptoms looked like I broke something. And they checked it four or five times – I was taking scans for about two hours, just to be sure. And I didn’t break anything. And it was great, we were so happy. So we thought it was like a sprained ankle, or a sprained foot, from the whiplash of the tackle. So I went home happy. We were all celebrating. Like, a couple weeks max.

“And that was the worst part, because the next day, I go in to see a specialist just to be sure. It was more of a precaution, the club set me up in Santa Monica with a specialist. She had me do a certain type of X-ray. And that’s when they found out that it was the Lisfranc injury. I didn’t know anything about it, she just said, it’s not good news. And to get the news like that, from thinking you were OK, and everything’s gonna be pretty much fine … to then the complete opposite, it was surreal. It’s your highest moment, and then down to something I’ve never experienced before. And then [them] telling you, ‘We don’t know how long yet.’ When they’re not telling you how long you’re out, there’s a problem.”

Date: Oct. 6
Record: 7-8-17 (Galaxy), 3-3-4 (U.S. final World Cup qualifying round)

While both the Galaxy and USMNT struggle — and could use a player like Lletget — he continues to recover from injury.

Lletget: “It’s six months now. I’ve still got a long way to go, I guess. As much as it looks like I’m on the verge of a comeback, I’m pretty far from it, to be honest.”

Lletget initially pegged his recovery timetable at 4-6 months. Six months after surgery, he was not yet back on the field, and was unsure how much further he had to go.

“I wish I could tell you. I don’t even know. It’s super tough. I’m not even close to 100 percent. The other part of my body is great, it’s just the injury, the actual foot itself. It’s tough. There’s good days, there’s bad days.

“It’s been very tough to be on the sidelines, with the way I am as a person and as a teammate. If the team’s in great positioning, I want to help the team get better. And if the team is in a bad way – which it has been, unfortunately – I would love to be there right along my teammates and ride it out, and see if any positives can come out of it. But I’m not gonna get that chance. It’s been very tough, emotionally. I’m pretty close to the guys, so it’s tough to see the way everything’s played out.

“I am [back to doing ball work]. There’s been some ups and downs with that. We’ve been monitoring it. It’s good, it’s just not good on a consistent basis, I suppose. I have to keep going off of how the foot responds.”

Lletget’s season would end without another match. That fateful March night cut it short before it was a month old. So how does the 25-year-old look back at the past year?

“Personally, I forget the high even happened. It’s been so long, and the negative part kind of took over a lot of the time. But I’m super grateful, don’t get me wrong. … I speak to kids now, and I speak to a lot of people, just to be grateful for what you have, and to enjoy every second. For example, you can see an all-time high, and then minutes later an all-time low. It definitely was a learning point for me. I definitely learned a lot outside of soccer.”

Yahoo Sports’ Henry Bushnell contributed to this story.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a Yahoo Sports soccer columnist and a sports communication lecturer at Marist College. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.

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