When he was first introduced to the media as a player for LAFC, with a shaved head instead of his trademark mullet/mohawk, defender Aaron Long appears to have set the stage for the end of his career. The new stage is ready.
The Mojave native, “homecoming” in a sense, signed with LAFC as a free agent — arguably the most coveted MLS free agent this offseason — and will immediately become Expected to be in blacks and gold in 2023.
“I think it’s a special day for me,” Long told reporters as he was introduced along with fellow rookies Stipe Buick, Daniel Maldonado and Erdin Jakupovic. “Obviously coming back to Los Angeles, in this market, and playing in front of my family and friends is something very special, a dream come true. To join such a team with big ambitions, big goals and a team that just won a cup last year and multiple Trophy team, what a fantastic team, I can’t wait to contribute to the team in any way, I’m so excited to be here. The last few days of training have been fantastic. We’ve all been greeted so warmly. So really I’m grateful and happy to be here.”
Long’s career has been unusual for a player of his stature. Growing up in a rural area, instead of playing elite youth club football, he went to UC Riverside to play college ball — sure, a program that produced many pros over the years, but not the giants of NCAA football in California. On the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders rosters, he played only for their reserves and signed for a third MLS club, the New York Red Bulls, before his fortunes really changed. After winning the USL league title and league defender of the year honors in 2016, Long signed a first-team contract with the Red Bulls and has been a fixture at the MLS level since 2017.
Long has won the top-flight trophy, the Supporters’ Shield in 2018, and won the MLS Defender of the Year in the same season. Making his debut for the U.S. national team that same year and going to the 2022 World Cup with the U.S. national team, Long has indeed paid his dues in his career, so the 30-year-old is not afraid of hardships.
As the defending MLS Cup champion, he’s also exactly the kind of player who can easily deal with the goals on his team’s back.
“I feel very ready,” Long explained. “Again. I know this club has big aspirations, it’s a team they want trophies and trophies. Four chances to win trophies is a fantastic chance. I think I know the club know that and we Will work hard for it.”
Although Long is slated to be LAFC’s starter, their lineup of center backs remains pretty solid pre-season, with Jesús David Murillo and Giorgio Chiellini returning, Long and Maldonado joining the fray, and homegrown Tony Leone likely in contention for the No. 1 spot on this year’s team. playing time. Last year, head coach Steve Cherendolo successfully used rotations for his center backs in the second half of the season, and given Long’s reference to the four games LAFC will play — MLS, Conca Champions League, US Open Cup and League Cup – starting positions are unlikely to be fixed.
Long said he and the rest of the team understand that the upcoming game will be a marathon.
“I think the most important thing is, I think iron wears iron, right? So we can have as many great players as possible in those positions, like we said there’s a lot of games this year, there’s going to be a lot of games. It’s A very tight schedule. So I think we’re going to have to rely on everybody at some point in the season. So to be able to have depth in that position is amazing. I don’t think anyone really understands their full role yet, right? We’re two days into the season, but it’s been an amazing group so far. So I think we’re all really excited to start,” he said.
LAFC co-president and general manager John Thorrington, when asked why the club has been so successful in signing MLS free agents in its short history, noted that he believes players and their agents talk to each other across the league, and his The way is by being kind to the players and their families.
“I think from the first day I was privileged to be in this role, I think I always said to our owners, I want this to be a destination of choice, a place where our players love to play here. And this Of course it’s about success. Players love winning. But more than that. I think that’s how we as a club treat our players from day one and even beyond their careers, and I think it starts with the owners. We With great staff, every conceivable need is catered for,” explains Thorrington.
Two trophies in 2022 wouldn’t hurt either, but while there are some changes to LAFC’s roster ahead of 2023, players like the signing of Long should help the club as it seeks to add more trophies to its cabinet.
We may earn a commission when you buy something from links on this page.