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Get to know LAFC’s top draft pick, Joao Moutinho

Portugal native takes unlikely path to pro soccer.

MLS: MLS Super Draft Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Football Club participated in their first MLS SuperDraft on Friday, selecting Akron defender Joao Moutinho with the first overall pick in the 2018 draft and in LAFC history.

Moutinho is an unusual selection, the first Portuguese player to be No. 1 overall in MLS history. The 20-year-old was a Sporting Club youth player in his native Lisbon, before coming to the United States and playing at NCAA powerhouse University of Akron in 2017.

Of course, he shares a name with another prominent Portuguese player, with the 31-year-old Joao Moutinho a Euro 2016 winner and a legend with Sporting Club, Porto and most recently, AC Monaco. While he has a long way to match the elder Moutinho’s accomplishments, Moutinho was a highly touted prospect and there were whispers he would go as high as No. 1 entering the draft, even though he played out of his college position much of the time at the player combine.

“This is just the beginning, and I can’t wait to get started”

Moutinho, who is fluent in English, spoke at the podium immediately after his selection on Friday:

Speaking to reporters immediately after being selected, Moutinho said he started learning English through his love of American wrestling, with John Cena being his favorite wrestler as a kid.

In coming to Akron, Moutinho was aware that he could find a path to MLS: “That was something I was aware of and something I wanted to do … one day play in the MLS.”

And while expansion teams can sometimes be a dicey proposition to play for in their first season, LAFC is aiming to buck that traditional mantle and Moutinho did not seem to fear it.

“I want to go to a club that has the ambition to go all the way and that is LAFC,” he said.

Where will he play?

The big question for Moutinho at the professional level is where he will play on the field. A center back in college, Moutinho’s passing ability and composure helped him stand out and earned him a Generation Adidas contract, but listed as 6-foot and just 156 lbs, it seems unlikely he’ll remain in central defense in MLS.

In the combine, he played as a left back, a position where he was said not to shine, but perhaps given more time to get into the role, that would not be a concern. There’s also the chance he could move up to central midfield in a defensive role, something which appears to be a need for LAFC at the moment, and given his college play, could be a natural fit at the MLS level.

“I want to play every game, but honestly I will do whatever the coach wants me to do,” said Moutinho when asked what he wanted to do with LAFC to make an impact.

So we’ll see where Moutinho fits in the LAFC roster. I think Bob Bradley will likely set him in a specific position, and from there we’ll see where he shakes out with the rest of the squad. And from there, we’ll see what he looks like when he hits the field.

Social media

Unfortunately, it looks like Moutinho doesn’t currently have a public presence on social media. That’s ok, of course, but maybe one of his teammates can convince him to sign up for Twitter or Instagram?

What do you think? Leave a comment below!

Thanks to Eugene Rupinski for providing reporting on this story.