There could be worse places to celebrate a birthday on a Friday night than Nashville, Tn. But Sebastian Lletget wasn’t about to go hard on Lower Broadway. This was a business trip with the United States national team.
Instead, he took in the scenery on a stroll with teammate Matt Turner to see what a Friday night in Nashville looked like before returning to the team hotel.
Lletget’s birthday — Sept. 3 — is on a FIFA international window, which for the last few years means it’s celebrated wherever the USMNT is playing.
He’s established himself on the national team and this summer celebrated thrilling wins over rival Mexico in the finals of the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup less than two months apart.
That’s in addition to being one of the most recognizable players in MLS and competing in his first MLS All-Star Game.
“It’s been a really blessed time and it's been a great summer with the national team, I mean two trophies,” Lletget told OSDB recently. “One of my dreams is always to win something and to do it twice in a span of like 60 days, with the US Soccer crests on, I mean that was pretty special.”
Two days after his 29th birthday, the San Francisco, Ca. native earned his first start in a World Cup qualifier since March 25, 2017, when he scored in a 6-0 win over Honduras, but left the match with a broken foot, which required surgery and sidelined him the rest of the year.
That moment, and the difficult rehabilitation that followed, helped shape who Lletget is today. Without soccer for the first time in his life, Lletget worked on his mental fitness as well as the physical.
That was also when Lletget learned about power soccer and became the first official ambassador of the US Power Soccer Association. Power soccer is the first competitive team sport designed and developed specifically for power wheelchair users. Lletget went to a clinic in 2017 and was blown away.
“It's probably one of the things I'm most proud of being involved with because my goal is to just keep shedding light on those athletes — and they're professionals,” Lletget said. “I just learned so much from them, from what they do and how much dedication they put into their game and their approach. It’s amazing how they've found a way to just play the game that we all love.”
Mental health awareness has become an important topic among the Galaxy. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, arguably the league’s biggest star, openly discussed his battles with mental health after dealing with an injury-plagued first season in MLS and the death of his grandfather, Tomas Balcazar, a former forward at famed Mexican club Chivas Guadalajara.
Teammate Jonathan dos Santos played hours after the death of his father, Zizinho, also a former professional, in the Gold Cup semifinals in July.
When Lletget’s USMNT defeated dos Santos’ Mexico in the final, the Galaxy teammates shared a touching moment on the field.
Lletget was trying to be a supportive teammate, but he wasn’t truly empathetic until the death of his sister, Viviana, weeks later. Dos Santos was there for him.
“In that moment, I just wanted to be there for him. Even though this is before the stuff with my sister happened, I thought I was an empathetic person, but you don't truly know what that person’s going through until it happens to you,” Lletget said. “Me and Jona did have a conversation about that side of things, because obviously I know what it feels like now. Before I was just trying to be there for him and sharing that moment, but after we really kind of connected on that level.”
Lletget was taken aback by the outpouring of support from the soccer community with a message from Beckham, the former Galaxy legend turned co-owner of Inter Miami CF, especially touching.
“He sent me a really nice message,” Lletget said. “Any interactions I’ve had with him, he’s just been a standup guy and a gentleman, honestly. It definitely teaches you the way to be as a professional, on and off [the field].”
Off the field, Lletget is also an investor in Path Water, which uses refillable and recyclable aluminum bottles instead of plastic, and has a collection of candles with Wick Sports, a collaboration that made him a target of some playful banter in a loose LA Galaxy locker room.
“I hate putting athletes in a box and we’re only supposed to do this or that. It was fun,” Lletget said. “I knew I was going to get killed for it [in the locker room]. It lasts a little bit, but then pretty soon they were like, can I get one? You just kind of weather the storm.”
When Lletget returned to the team hotel in Nashville, there to greet him was his girlfriend Becky G, a Mexican-American pop star.
Lletget said one of best birthdays was spent with Becky G when the USMNT was in New York for a friendly against Neymar and Brazil
They dined at iconic Keens Steakhouse in Manhattan, known for its choice cuts as a unique collection of pipes that were checked like a coat from more than 90,000 patrons, including Babe Ruth, Teddy Roosevelt and Albert Einstein, among others.
“We always thought that was so cool and obviously the food is amazing so we always make it a thing now,” Lletget said. “But we don't get to New York enough, especially now with COVID It's been tough, but that's probably one of my favorite things that we've done.”
A standout on the field, and charitable and thoughtful off of it, Sebastian Lletget’s star with the LA Galaxy is shining brightly.