FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – There’s a history of players finding their way back to Bruce Arena, and that’s once again the case with the New England Revolution’s newest midfielder, Sebastian Lletget, reunited with Arena in Foxborough after being acquired via trade with the LA Galaxy on Thursday afternoon.
Lletget called the reunion “kind of a full-circle moment,” as it was Arena who signed Lletget to the LA Galaxy in 2015 – coaching him there for just shy of two seasons – and who also first brought Lletget into the fold with the U.S. Men’s National Team to make his debut in 2017.
As he tends to do, Arena got the best out of Lletget in LA, as the attack-minded midfielder registered career highs in both goals (7, 2015) and assists (8, 2016) in his two seasons under Arena. That’s why both Lletget and the Revs are so excited about the possibilities for the 29-year-old in Foxborough.
“I don’t know how he does it. He has this secret sauce about him as far as managing groups and managing players as individuals,” Lletget said of the Revolution sporting director and head coach. “Since day one, since he signed me with the Galaxy, I could definitely understand right away why he’s had so much success.”
Lletget reiterated a point many players have made when trying to explain Arena’s “secret sauce,” highlighting the fact that he simplifies instructions for his players and defines specific roles within the group, providing clear direction while also allowing a certain freedom of expression. In fact, Lletget feels as though he already has an understanding where he’ll fit into the dynamic of the Revolution.
“Just like anything with him, he’s very balanced, so he didn’t overload me too much,” Lletget said of his initial conversations with Arena following the move to New England. “But he did mention just what my role would be in this team, and I think that’s something that I lacked these last couple years – maybe even since he left the Galaxy. There was a lot of inconsistencies there, and my role positionally, or among other things, just wasn’t clear.
“I think maybe I’m just one of those players that needs a clear role, and I think he brings that for me. He definitely makes it easier on that side of things. Maybe it’s just my style of play. He knows me very well. He knows me in and out. I think that’s going to be one of the major keys to my success there, is that I’m going to have a clear role, and the communication between us is always going to be there.”
So what exactly will Lletget’s role be in New England? Preseason will provide some answers as to how he’ll fit within the group, but after bouncing between several different spots in LA – almost a victim of his versatility – Lletget said that he’s been given assurances that he’ll have an opportunity to play in his most comfortable position in New England.
“Positionally, I’ve always been an attacking central midfielder,” said Lletget. “That was part of some issues that I had at my previous club, that I bounced around from position to position, and I’ve never been given that chance to master one position. That’s always been something that I’ve never really understood, but it’s always kind of panned out that way. Maybe because I can play other positions, but it’s always been my goal to master one.
“I think that’s one of the biggest conversations that I’ve had with Bruce is, ‘Is that the type of role that I can play on this team?’ and his answer was, ‘Yes.” That’s kind of what he was already thinking. We definitely saw eye to eye on that.”
Lletget went to the playoffs in both of his years under Arena in LA, but then reached the postseason just once in five seasons following Arena’s departure in November of 2016. Reuniting in New England with the defending Supporters’ Shield champions, Lletget is confident that Arena will be the key to helping him return to those winning ways.
“Circling back with him in New England, it’s set up to be something great,” said Lletget. “Of course, there’s going to be challenges along the way. There’s going to be bumps on the road. But I’m just very excited. It’s hard to tell what the future’s going to hold. I hope we lift up some silverware. That’s my goal. I want to win. I haven’t been able to do that at the Galaxy for one reason or another, but I think this is going to be the challenge that I’m looking for.”