After staying silent for most of the MLS transfer window, FC Dallas roared into action Wednesday, acquiring New England midfielder Sebastian Lletget for $600,000 in general allocation money (GAM). It was a stunner, and not just because the 29-year-old is on the move for the second time in under a year after the L.A. Galaxy moved him for $500,000 of GAM over the winter.
When we wrote about FCD’s potential transfer activity last month, someone like Lletget wasn’t explicitly listed as a need. There figured to be bigger items on the to-do list, including finding a striker or center back. Presuming FCD went midfielder at all, a defensive-oriented player seemed like a more glaring problem than finding a silky passer such as Lletget. But as the window started to close, the club’s focus became clear: a veteran player who could slide into the starting lineup, at almost any position.
Lletget checks all the boxes. He has played plenty of matches, with 177 MLS games on his ledger, and he’ll walk into the starting XI, most likely opposite Paxton Pomykal in the midfield of Nico Estevèz’s 4-3-3. He’s got versatility, too: Lletget was playing right wing in a 4-2-3-1 with the Revolution, allowing him to deputize for Paul Arriola or Jader Obrian.
He’s also familiar with the man at the helm. Lletget made 20 appearances for the U.S. men’s national team during Estevèz’s tenure as an assistant coach, including on the CONCACAF Gold Cup-winning roster last summer. He becomes the third regular member of the USMNT on the active roster, joining Arriola and Jesus Ferreira. That familiarity will be key, as Lletget’s integration into the squad will need to be swift if he hopes to impact the remaining 10 regular-season games.
Then there’s his passing acumen. Per FBRef, Lletget has been one of the best passers in MLS for midfielders over the past 365 days. His 92.2 completion percentage on short passes puts him in the 83rd percentile leaguewide, and he is in the 72nd percentile in key passes. He’s in the mid-70s on both shot-creating and goal-creating actions, and he’s in the 86th percentile in attacking third touches. That’s a midfield boss right there, someone who will facilitate better attacks through ball movement.
The greatest beneficiary could be Pomykal. The 22-year-old homegrown talent has played in all 24 MLS games this year, starting 22. He has played at least 62 minutes in every start, exceeding 80 in 12 of them. Lletget’s arrival will help FCD keep its young midfielders’ legs fresh down the stretch. More often, though, Pomykal and Lletget will play together in a partnership that should rank among the elites in enabling their forwards. That means more shots and, theoretically, more goals, too. At the very least, it can’t hurt Ferreira’s chances of reclaiming the MLS goal-scoring lead after falling two behind Austin’s Sebastian Driussi.
The intangibles matter here also. FCD’s regular starting lineup is the fourth-youngest in MLS, with an average age of just over 25 according to Transfermarkt, and Lletget brings experience in both domestic and international play. He’s not going to be worried about the same things a younger, inexperienced player will be because he has been there, done that. The benefit to players such as Alan Velasco, Tsiki Ntsabaleng, and others sitting under Lletget’s learning tree could be even more valuable long term.
But more than anything else, the biggest takeaway from this deal concerns the front office. This winter FCD kicked off an overhaul of the club–a new era, as it was branded. They brought in a coach who’s committed to building sustainable success, not flashes in the pan, and they threw serious resources behind his vision with signings like Arriola and Velasco. The acquisition of Lletget demonstrates a similar level of commitment, a move that while not cheap, is worth it because it improves the team both now and into the future. It’s the kind of thing good teams do to improve.
The regular season is winding down, and with 10 games to go, Dallas sits fourth in a Western Conference where the difference between third and eighth place (the first out) is just four points. The playoffs are very possible, in other words, although the path won’t be easy with matches against Philadelphia and LAFC down the stretch. But this move is bigger than that. Because even if FCD falls short of the playoffs, Lletget’s arrival will whet the appetite for more in Frisco. It will mirror the club’s year: a glimpse of what could be, with a bright future ahead.