Akron’s Moutinho goes No. 1 in MLS amateur draft
Akron’s Joao Moutinho was selected Friday by Los Angeles FC with the No. 1 overall pick in Major League Soccer’s amateur draft.
The day also featured a major trade: The Philadelphia Union acquired winger Davis Accam from Chicago for $1.2 million in allocation money. Atlanta United also announced the much-anticipated arrival of attacking midfielder Ezequiel Barco.
Moutinho, 19, gained attention at the MLS combine. Last season as a freshman defender, he started in all 24 games for the Zips and was named the Mid-American Conference freshman of the year.
A native of Lisbon, Portugal, Moutinho told reporters gathered for the draft in Philadelphia that he learned English by watching WWE.
“I was like 5 or 6 years old and I would memorize all the things they would say,” he said. “That definitely had an impact in my life — I started learning English from there.”
LAFC traded up with D.C. United for the No. 3 overall pick, taking defender Tristan Blackmon from the University of the Pacific. Blackmon was the West Coast Conference defender of the year last season as a senior.
LAFC is new to the league this season, named as an expansion team in late 2014 shortly after Chivas USA folded.
With the No. 2 pick, the LA Galaxy selected defender Tomas Hilliard-Arce out of Stanford. The Galaxy were without coach Sigi Schmid at the draft at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Schmid was ill and couldn’t attend in person.
With the fourth overall pick FC Dallas took forward Francis Atuahene out of Michigan. Wake Forest’s Jon Bakero, who won this season’s Mac Hermann Trophy for best college player, was selected fifth overall by the Chicago Fire.
Forward Chris Mueller out of Wisconsin went to Orlando at No. 6; forward Mason Toye out of Indiana went to Minnesota at No. 7; defender Brandon Bye out of Western Michigan went to New England at No. 8. The Revolution also took defender Mark Segbers out of Wisconsin at No. 9. Midfielder Mo Adams out of Syracuse went to Chicago to round out the top 10.
LAFC brings the league to 23 teams, 12 in the Western Conference and 11 in the Eastern Conference. The team’s ownership group is led by venture capitalist Henry Nguyen, as well as Mandalay Entertainment CEO Peter Guber and former NBA executive Tom Penn.
Coach Bob Bradley needed to build on a roster that stood at 12 players before the draft. The team’s biggest need was a midfielder to join Benny Feilhaber and Omar Gaber.
The team has been building around designated players Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi of Uruguay, as well as Egyptian defender Omar Gaber and American defender Walker Zimmerman, acquired last month in a trade with FC Dallas. LAFC has reportedly been negotiating with free-agent defender Steven Beitashour from Toronto.
Accam had 14 goals and eight assists last year in his third season with the Fire. For his MLS career, the native of Ghana has 33 goals and 15 assists.
When the trade was announced in Philadelphia, the Union’s Sons of Ben supporters group chanted “Thank You Earnie!” in a nod to the team’s sporting director Earnie Stewart.
The trade included $300,000 in general allocation money and $900,000 in targeted allocation money.
Barco comes to Atlanta from Club Atletico Independiente of the Argentine first division. He has also made eight appearances with Argentina’s under-20 national team.
“Securing a player of Ezequiel’s caliber is another significant moment in Atlanta United history,” Atlanta United President Darren Eales said in a statement. “This transfer further demonstrates the commitment of our club to bring top level, dynamic young players to Atlanta and to MLS. We are excited to welcome Ezequiel to our club and our city.”
The first two rounds of the draft were held Friday, with the remaining rounds to be held via conference call.
Supporters’ groups at the draft also could be heard chanting “Save Columbus” during the event.
The upcoming season could be the last in Columbus for the Crew. Anthony Precourt and Precourt Sports Ventures, which has owned the Major League Soccer club since 2013, announced the team will move to Austin, Texas, following the 2018 season unless a privately financed stadium is built in downtown Columbus.
The Crew, one of the 10 founding clubs in MLS, have been playing since 1996 and won the MLS Cup championship in 2008. They have played at Mapfre Stadium, the first soccer-specific stadium in the league, since 1999.