KISSIMMEE, Florida —Joao Moutinho’s name is etched in Los Angeles FC’s history as the team’s first draft pick, but on Friday he made his own history with his new team.
Moutinho’s 90th-minute equalizer helped Orlando City eliminate LAFC from the MLS is Back Tournament, sending the Lions to the semifinals and kicking off celebrations that had to be even more special for the former LAFC defender.
“I guess so, obviously I still have a lot of friends and a lot of people that I respect at LAFC,” said Moutinho. “I spent a good year there, so I made some friendships and I guess it might have been an extra special feeling, but honestly I just feel happy that I was able to help the team in a situation that we needed and happy I got the goal and that we won on penalties.”
Moutinho, who played with LAFC during their inaugural season 2018 and traded to Orlando ahead of the 2019 regular season, admitted he had an idea of what LAFC’s defending would be like during Friday’s quarterfinal game.
“We knew that they left big windows with a lot of space on defending set pieces, and I was in charge of going to the back post on our attacking set-pieces, corners and free-kicks, so I knew I had some space there.”
LAFC’s high press stifled Orlando at certain points of the game, but Oscar Pareja’s team was able to manage and hold last year’s Supporters’ Shield winners to the least amount of goals they’ve scored in the tournament.
Staying focused, however, proved to be key for the Lions Friday night.
“I think it all comes down to our game plan, we want to be protagonists,” said Moutinho. “It doesn’t really matter who we’re up against. We knew that they had a great team with very good forwards and midfielders, but we also knew that we had great energy.”
“Starting with our frontline and pressing them from the get-go,” he added. “Because we are trying to make a statement here, we are trying to show the other teams that we’re coming out here to play and to impose our game on them.”