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LAFC sign defender Aaron Long

Coveted free agent returns home to Southern California.

MLS: Orlando City SC at New York Red Bulls Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The benefits of being the defending champion is that players from outside the squad want to join up, and that appears to be the case for LAFC, as they have landed one of the Free Agency coups of the offseason in signing defender Aaron Long. The player confirmed the news on social media on Wednesday.

Long, 30, joins LAFC after being a regular five of the last six seasons with the New York Red Bulls (the sixth season he missed most of the campaign with a torn Achilles). Making 139 appearances in the MLS regular season to date (133 starts), the center back has been a key member of the Red Bulls, winning the 2018 Supporters’ Shield and voted MLS Defender of the Year and MLS Best XI that same season, while also earning two MLS All-Star selections, including in 2022.

But Long is a late bloomer. After playing NCAA soccer at UC Riverside, he was drafted by the Portland Timbers in 2014 but never featured for their first team. Instead, he cut his teeth in the USL, featuring for Sacramento Republic, the club now known as Orange County SC, and then signing for the Seattle Sounders organization and playing for Sounders 2. After moving to the Red Bulls organization in 2016, he won the USL league title that season with NYRBII, and won USL Defender of the Year, before earning an MLS contract the next season.

Long is also a U.S. international, having gone to the World Cup with the USMNT in December. Since making his debut in 2018, he has 29 senior caps for the United States.

This represents a homecoming of sorts for Long, who grew up in the California High Desert region. So while Los Angeles isn’t his hometown, he will be close to where he grew up.

Expect Long to be a starter for LAFC if healthy. While there is likely to be plenty of rotation in the center back position given Steve Cherundolo’s successful policy last year and the number of competitions LAFC will be playing in 2023, Long will likely be first or second choice for the black-and-gold, and if anything, should make LAFC’s center back corps even stronger heading into the new season.

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