As first reported by The Mane Land, Orlando City has acquired defender Joao Moutinho from Los Angeles Football Club in exchange for Mohamed El-Munir. Full details of the deal are not yet available so there may be more pieces involved. A credible source with knowledge of the situation informed The Mane Land about the trade discussions on Dec. 9 but the details of the deal were not finalized within the MLS Half-Day Trade Window and dragged on. That deal is now complete according to Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times.
Moutinho, 20, is a native of Lisbon, Portugal, who just completed his rookie season in Major League Soccer. The No. 1 overall pick out of Akron in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft appeared in 14 games (10 starts) in 2018, scoring one goal and attempting seven shots (one on target) in 872 minutes. Here’s a look at that first MLS goal as he won the game in the 97th minute at San Jose:
He passed at an 80.2% success rate, committed 11 fouls and drew six, picking up two yellow cards and one red. Defensively, Moutinho averaged 1.8 tackles, 2.1 interceptions, 2.2 clearances, and 0.3 blocks per game.
The 6-foot, 156-pound Moutinho is slightly bigger than El-Munir (5-foot-9, 154 pounds), but doesn’t play bigger yet. He’s only 20, so he’s still got some physical maturing to do. He came out of Sporting CP’s academy in Portugal and decided to play college soccer at Akron. He spent only one season with the Zips, where he started all 24 games in his freshman season, scoring three goals and adding five assists in 2,109 minutes of play in 2017. He was named First Team All-MAC, U.S. Soccer Coaches First Team All-American and MAC Freshman of the year before signing a Generation Adidas contract with MLS.
Moutinho made $169,999.96, compared to El-Munir’s guaranteed compensation of $192,833.29 in 2018. However, being a Generation Adidas player, Moutinho does not count against the senior roster. Both are international players, but our source tells us that Moutinho is working towards receiving his green card and may soon no longer require an international slot.
El-Munir, 26, just completed his first season in MLS after playing five games with Partizan in Serbia in 2017. He became a fan favorite with his speed and fancy footwork but was inconsistent defensively and his back-post defending was quite bad at times, especially early in the season. One mlssoccer.com writer in particular was repeatedly bewildered by El-Munir’s play.
The Libyan international played in 26 matches (23 starts), getting 2,089 minutes in 2018, El-Munir scored no goals in 2018 but did chip in two assists, attempting 23 shots (eight on goal). He was a 77.6% passer, committed 34 fouls, and drew 18. Defensively, he averaged 3.8 tackles, 2.7 interceptions, 1.7 clearances, and 0.3 blocks per match. So in all but the tackles category, Moutinho compares well with the Libyan on defense. In terms of discipline, El-Munir picked up six yellow cards and one red in 2018.
What This Means for Orlando City
The first response for many Orlando fans would be negative on this deal but there are benefits. Moutinho is young and is still developing but he’s already got some MLS experience at age 20. The Portuguese youngster has shown a ton of potential and as a Generation Adidas player he won’t count against the senior roster, allowing the Lions a bit more flexibility with El-Munir’s salary off the books, saving nearly $200,000 in cap space. If he does indeed get his green card soon, it would free up an international slot as well, which can be used on someone else.
Defensively, Moutinho still needs to grow as a player — in fact, he literally needs to put on some muscle and grow into his body, per our friends at Angels on Parade — but his upside is higher than El-Munir’s, as the Libyan is already 26 and what you see is pretty much what you get. If James O’Connor’s plan is to play a three-man back line, Moutinho could step into a wingback role quickly.
This is a trade that will require a year or more to fully evaluate. If Moutinho blossoms quickly and/or if the savings on El-Munir’s salary (and potentially his international slot) is spent wisely, it will be a beneficial one for Orlando City in the short term. If it takes longer for the 20-year-old to develop, it can still be a good deal for the Lions in the long run. We know what El-Munir will bring LAFC — both good and bad — and he may end up being a better fit there. We don’t yet know what Moutinho will bring to the City Beautiful.