With the start of the MLS season a week away, LAFC secured its first win of the preseason courtesy of a goal from João Moutinho. The Black & Gold now turns its attention to the Sounders, as it travels to Seattle for the first competitive match in Club history on March 4.
Here are four takeaways from LAFC’s 1-0 win over Sacramento Republic FC:
João’s Nets His First
Since being selected with the No. 1 overall pick by LAFC in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, defender João Moutinho has had a nearly seamless transition to the next level. In each of LAFC’s previous three preseason games, Moutinho has shown poise in possession, a great understanding of the game, and the ability to keep up with the accelerated pace of MLS play versus the college game. Against Sacramento, he proved he can add to the score line, too.
Identifying a large swath of space some 35 yards from the Republic goal, Moutinho raced onto a lateral pass from Carlos Vela and made straight for the penalty area. As the Sacramento defenders continued to backpedal, Mountinho kept his wits about him, coolly slotting a low shot into the side netting. The game’s only goal served to show the rookie has no problem recognizing opportunities when they are given.
And even more importantly, he has the skills to take advantage.
Carlos The Captain?
To this point, Bob Bradley has been coy over who will captain LAFC in its inaugural season. So, many have speculated for him, with players like Benny Feilhaber, Laurent Ciman, and Carlos Vela all being mentioned.
Against Sacramento, Vela took the field wearing the captain’s armband. Asked about it after the match, Bradley said he still doesn’t have a definitive answer, especially with Ciman missing the last two preseason matches. He did allude to possibly having a No. 1 and No. 2 captain, but preferred to “give it a little time” before officially naming a captain.
With Ciman likely to return for the Seattle trip, it's still anybody's guess as to who will lead the side out in the opening match.
Tyler Miller And The Backline Stand Tall
Without their preferred center back pairing of Laurent Ciman and Walker Zimmerman, LAFC still managed its first clean sheet of the preseason.
Tristan Blackmon and Dejan Jakovic started at the heart of the LAFC defense on Sunday. But it was goalkeeper Tyler Miller doing the dirty work. The former Sounders’ keeper was called upon multiple times to keep Sacramento at bay, including a point-blank stop in a 1v1 situation in the 31st minute. In addition to his shot stopping, Miller’s distribution from the back led to a couple of breaks on the counter for LAFC.
Better Bring Your Shooting Boots To Seattle
LAFC managed just one goal against Sacramento but not for lack of trying. In the end, the team’s finishing left a lot to be desired on Sunday.
Marco Ureña, Latif Blessing, and Diego Rossi (on multiple occasions) had opportunities you’d expect players of their caliber to finish. Against a USL side, the likelihood of being punished for not finishing your chances isn’t high. But come next week, if Rossi and co. fail to bury opportunities, don’t be surprised if the likes of Nicolás Lodeiro, Clint Dempsey, and Cristian Roldan head straight down to the other end of the pitch and make LAFC pay.