The Los Angeles Football Club enters its sixth MLS season as holders of the Supporters Shield and the MLS Cup. Winners across the board yet, the Black and Gold are looking to add additional trophies.
As they prepare for the season opener on February 25 against cross-town rivals, the LA Galaxy, LAFC has been busy making moves ahead of the years three competitions.
November 15th, a mere week after celebrating the club’s first MLS title, LAFC released/declined options on eight players, opening up roster spots for the off-season and January transfer window.
Among the notable players released were Sebastien Ibeagha and Cristian Tello, who both saw minutes during the 2022 MLS Cup Final. Eddie Segura who suffered an injury-riddled season was also made a free-agent and has yet to sign an extension, leaving his future unknown.
When the January transfer window opened, fan favorite and original LAFC player Latif Blessing was traded to the New England Revolution on what would perhaps be one of their biggest changes yet. Blessing along with Carlos Vela had been part of the club since their inaugural season and had made 145 appearances with the Black and Gold.
LAFC’s first roster acquisitions had an international flavor. First, by adding depth to their back line in the acquisition of defender Denil Maldonado from Honduran team CD Motagua, via loan. The Honduraian native and national team veteran made 22 appearances for Motagua in the 2021-22 season.
Maldonado will be expected to shore up the loss of both Ibeagha and Segura. Having played in both Honduras and Mexico, Maldonado’s experience should gain them momentum when LAFC contest the CONCACAF Champions League tournament.
Next, LAFC acquired (via transfer) 20-year old Croatian forward, Stipe Biuk. Playing in his hometown for Hadjuk Split, Biuk made 52 appearances at the senior level and has played at the youth level for the Croatian National team.
Biuk will add depth to LAFC’s potent frontline and gives the team young, fresh legs when the veterans tire during the long MLS season.
The Big Move
All of that to say that biggest move of the off-season has been the signing of US National Team defender Aaron Long. A free agent who played 6 seasons with the New York Red Bulls and who was named 2018’s MLS Defender of the Year.
Long plays as a center-back and will likely pair with Giorgio Chiellini in the middle of the defense. With 129 MLS games under his belt, Long will offer a veteran presence to an area of strength for the Black and Gold.
Not done yet
It’s early into the January transfer window and LAFC can still add to their roster. With the pre-season upon us, they’ll have to finalize any potential moves in order to be roster complacent ahead of the season.