Aaron Long to LAFC

LAFC have signed US men's national team center back Aaron Long in free agency, the club announced Wednesday.

Long was born in Southern California and stayed local to play collegiately at the University of California, Riverside. Now, he returns home for the first time as a professional with a deal through the 2024 MLS season.

“Aaron is among the top central defenders in MLS and the US national team pool, and we are incredibly excited he has chosen to come to LAFC,” LAFC co-president & general manager John Thorrington said in a release.

“We are confident that Aaron’s ability and experience will prove to be an important part of our continued success as a club. I would like to thank his representative, Shaun Higgins, for his help throughout the process. Our supporters and entire organization look forward to welcoming Aaron, his wife Elise, and their family to LA.”

Long, 30, was named MLS Defender of the Year in 2018 and won the Supporters' Shield with New York Red Bulls that year. The former RBNY captain has made 139 regular-season appearances, including 28 starts last year after recovering from a torn Achilles he suffered in May 2021.

Long originally turned professional as a central midfielder and spent time with Seattle Sounders FC and Portland Timbers, but didn't make his MLS debut for either side. The Red Bulls signed him to a second-team deal in 2016 with the plan of converting him to center back. He was named USL Championship Defender of the Year before elevating to the first team in 2017.

The defender made the USMNT World Cup squad but didn't feature in the Qatar-based tournament. Long has 29 caps with the national team.

Though interest in Long across MLS was widespread, Seattle and Inter Miami CF were the two clubs that came closest, sources say. But Long opted for LAFC.

LAFC won the MLS Cup/Supporters' Shield double in 2022, the first club to do so since Toronto FC in 2017. So far this winter, the Black & Gold have added Croatian youth international winger Stipe Biuk and Honduran international center back Denil Maldonado. Latif Blessing headlines players to leave so far, but further departures are expected. Ecuador internationals Jose Cifuentes and Diego Palacios have plenty of interest abroad.

Long joins a center back group that includes Jesus Murillo, Giorgio Chiellini, Maldonado and more.

Matchday 1 of the 2023 MLS season arrives Feb. 25, with LAFC facing the LA Galaxy in a season-opening El Trafico at the Rose Bowl (9:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).