Galaxy’s Sebastian Lletget named to U.S. team for CONCACAF Gold Cup

Sebastian Lletget, right, battles for the ball with Costa Rica's Yeltsin Tejeda.
Sebastian Lletget, right, battles for the ball with Costa Rica’s Yeltsin Tejeda during an international friendly soccer match June 9 in Sandy, Utah.
(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget was named Thursday to a young U.S. squad for this month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup but teammate Julian Araujo was not, an exclusion coach Gregg Berhalter chalked up to Araujo’s unwillingness to commit to the national team.

“It’s a case of him being a dual national and not fully ready to commit to the team. He knew the Gold Cup would lock him in permanently and he wasn’t ready to make that step,” Berhalter said.

Lletget was one of five Galaxy players called up for their national teams for the Gold Cup. LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye was also called up by Canada.

Araujo, 19, who was born in Lompoc and has made one appearance for the senior national team, is also eligible to play for Mexico. But playing in the Gold Cup for the U.S. could close that window. Berhalter said Araujo wasn’t ready to do that.

Araujo did not respond to messages speaking comment but Galaxy coach Greg Vanney confirmed Berhalter’s take.

“Julian is still young. He’s 19. And he’s trying to figure out what the best solution is,” he said. “It’s very personal, which country you decide to represent and how all that plays out.”


Lletget, who could have played for Argentina before choosing the U.S., agreed.

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“For me, it’s something personal,” he said in Spanish. “I love that guy. He’s like a little brother to me. I try to help him. But he’s in a very distinct position that not many are in so it’s tough. But I will respect his decision.”

A right back, Araujo was called up to the senior national team twice last year, making his only appearance in a December win over El Salvador. He was also named to a succession of youth national teams, including the U-20 squad for the 2019 World Cup and the U-23 team for last spring’s Olympic qualifying tournament. Araujo has not played for Mexico at any level.

“I don’t want to speak for him but I can imagine he looks at the depth of the right-back position and he sees a logjam. And he doesn’t maybe fully see his pathway to being a starter in the next World Cup,” Berhalter said. “We really value Julian and we think he’s an outstanding player. We think he can make a run at being a starter on this team.

“A lot of it’s going to be up to his form and his development. But he’s a young player, a young talented player, and we think that he does have a future with this team. But for the Gold Cup, he’s not going to be taking part.”

Right back, long a position of weakness for the U.S., is now one of the deepest in Berhalter’s player pool with Barcelona’s Sergiño Dest, Boavista’s Reggie Cannon, Galatasaray’s DeAndre Yedlin and Roma’s Bryan Reynolds among those who have played there this year. Of the four, only Yedlin is older than 23.

Araujo’s Galaxy teammate Efraín Álvarez, another dual national who can compete for either the U.S. or Mexico, was named to Mexico’s Gold Cup squad, signaling his commitment to play long-term for his parents’ homeland.

Mexico also named Galaxy captain Jonathan dos Santos to its roster despite a calf injury has prevented Dos Santos from playing a full game for more than six weeks. The Galaxy’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, who leads MLS in scoring with 10 goals in as many games, was not called up. Hernández, a three-time World Cup start and Mexico’s all-time leading scorer, hasn’t been called up by the national team in 22 months.

Mexican soccer stars Javier “Chicharito” Hernández and Carlos Vela won’t be called up by El Tri, but they will be featured in the MLS All-Star game skills challenge.

Costa Rica called up Galaxy defender Giancarlo González, who has not appeared in an MLS game this season while Jamaica summoned defender Oniel Fisher, who has played in four games, starting twice.

Lletget will remain with the Galaxy for two more games while Dos Santos and Álvarez have already reported to Mexico and will be available for Saturday’s friendly with Nigeria at the Coliseum. With the Gold Cup running July 11-Aug. 1, players called up Thursday could miss as many as six MLS games with their clubs.

Lletget’s call-up for the Gold Cup was something of a surprise given that he has won a place in the core of a national team that will play eight World Cup qualifiers this fall. The only man to have appeared in all 11 national team games over the last two calendar years, he is one of just three players to make the Gold Cup team after also playing in last month’s Nations League win over Mexico. Colorado midfielder Kellyn Acosta and Cannon are the other two.

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“We’re showing our dependence on Sebastian again and how good of a player he is,” Berhalter said. “This is a positive sign. When you look at the holdovers from the Nations League, I think it shows you how much we value them and how important they are to this group.

“I can’t imagine our roster right now without those three. These guys are going to help us compete to win the Gold Cup.”

The Gold Cup roster includes 12 players looking to compete in an official competition for the U.S. for the first time and five who are hoping to make their national team debuts. The team averages 13 international appearances, five in official competition. Among those returning to the national team is former LAFC center back Walker Zimmerman, the reigning MLS defender of the year, and former Galaxy attacker Gyasi Zardes.

Yorba Linda’s Matthew Hoppe, who scored six times for Schalke in the German Bundesliga this season, was among those summoned for the first time. He is one of just four European-based players called up.

The U.S. will open its Gold Cup schedule on July 11 against the winner of a preliminary round playoff. It will then face Martinique and Canada in pool play with the top two teams from the group advancing to the quarterfinals.

The tournament final will be played Aug. 1 in Las Vegas.

U.S. roster for CONCACAF Gold Cup

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United), Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Matt Turner (New England Revolution)

Defenders: George Bello (Atlanta United), Reggie Cannon (Boavista), Shaq Moore (Tenerife), Donovan Pines (D.C. United), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), James Sands (New York City FC), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Gianluca Busio (Sporting Kansas City), Sebastian Lletget (Galaxy), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)

Forwards: Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Daryl Dike (Orlando City), Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen), Matthew Hoppe (Schalke), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)