Ulysses Llanez has just become the next Bundesliga-based name to feature in the senior USA squad, following in the footsteps of the likes of Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Josh Sargent. But who exactly is the teenage Wolfsburg midfielder?
Allow bundesliga.com to shed some light on the matter…
Ulysses Llanez Jnr.
Position: Attacking midfield
Country: USA (1 senior cap)
Born and raised in the Los Angeles suburb of Lynwood, Llanez’s talents inevitably caught the eye of the area’s biggest team, LA Galaxy. A product of the club’s academy, the 5'9" attacker scored 48 goals in 79 games at youth level before making the step up to Galaxy II for the 2018 United Soccer League campaign, netting twice in 10 appearances.
Although also able to play for Mexico thanks to his parents’ heritage, he has represented the USA at U16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 level, and was his country's joint second highest scorer with seven goals during their triumphant 2018 CONCACAF U20 Championship campaign, where he was also named in the official team of the tournament. Furthermore, Llanez’s eye-catching displays earned him a nomination for the 2018 U.S. Soccer Young Male Player of the Year award.
The naturally right-footed forward can play on the right and left wing, and is considered to be one of the most gifted up-and-coming players in the US set-up. He signed his first professional contract with Wolfsburg on his 18th birthday in April 2019, and made an instant impact in the Wolves’ U19s, scoring twice in a friendly later that same month. He was on target again in his first competitive game for the club, chalking up two goals and an assist in a 5-1 triumph over St. Pauli in the U19 Bundesliga North / North-East. In total he registered 10 goals and three assists in 11 league outings for the side by the halfway stage of the 2019/20 season, helping the young Wolves stay in the hunt at the top of the standings.
Llanez also already boasts a wealth of experience at junior international level and has 11 caps for the U20s, including three starts at the FIFA U20 World Cup 2019 in Poland alongside the likes of Chris Richards (Bayern Munich), Sebastian Soto (Hannover) and Brady Scott (Cologne) as the Stars and Stripes reached the quarter-finals. He even scored on his senior debut for the USMNT in a friendly against Costa Rica in February 2020.
Plays a bit like: Jadon Sancho
Diminutive, a gifted dribbler with pace and a willingness to run at opponents, there are certainly more than a few similarities between Llanez and his Bundesliga-trailblazing countryman Christian Pulisic, even if he lists Neymar and Alexis Sanchez as his role models. However, it is arguably Jadon Sancho with whom he shares most traits – notably the incredibly quick feet to get out of tight situations, a fearlessness in taking risks in the final third and sheer efficiency of numbers in providing goals and assists.
Did you know?
Llanez, who is named after his father - hence the 'junior' suffix - says his favourite movie is 'Goal'. You know, the one where a talented Latino youngster from LA moves to Europe and makes it into the big time? Sometimes life really can imitate art...
What they're saying
"It’s typical he took the penalty because that’s what type of player he is. He plays with confidence. Even at the beginning of the game, he didn’t see nerves, he was going at guys one v one, he’s getting into good spaces, he’s running behind the line. His defensive work was strong as well." - USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter on Llanez's penalty on debut
"He's an elite player" - former USA U20 and USMNT head coach Tab Ramos
"Uly always had individual, one-on-one capabilities that made him different from everyone else. He's a game-changer and he's fearless [...] When he gets the ball there's only one thing on his mind: he wants to beat you." LA Galaxy II coach Mike Munoz