Faces of First Kick: Alejandro Moreno
For any soccer player to crack the pros and stay is quite a feat, but players should only get comfortable in a location at their own peril. In a sport where transfers can dictate the outcome of a club’s season – and success as a business – players are expendable and typically always ripe to be moved.
No one put it better than ex-FC Dallas defender Duilio Davino, who said in 2008 that “a soccer player must learn to live with his suitcases packed for when a team doesn’t want you, or another team wants you somewhere else.”
In Major League Soccer, it’s hard to think of many players who embody that sentiment more than new Chivas USA forward Alejandro Moreno, who became part of the Rojiblancos during last fall’s Expansion Draft.
On that November day, the Vancouver Whitecaps plucked him from the Philadelphia Union, then turned around and sent him to Chivas along with Alan Gordon in exchange for allocation money and an international player slot for 2011.
But bouncing around MLS is something the 31-year-old Moreno is used to. Carson, Calif., is his sixth stop in nine years.
“Moving is always hard,” Moreno told MLSsoccer.com. “You feel that you have experience in these situations, but they can really affect you if you can’t situate your family.
“I have two small children and a wife, and you have many responsibilities you must take care of when you move,” he added. “You have to help your family settle as quickly as possible, find a home, a school. [But] it does get easier.”
The reason why the veteran Venezuelan hasn’t stayed with a team for more than three seasons isn’t because he’s not good enough. On the contrary, it’s his track record of success and apparent Midas touch that makes him such an appealing asset.
The First Stop
Moreno first broke onto the MLS scene in 2002 with the LA Galaxy, who drafted him 27th overall in that year’s MLS SuperDraft. He helped the Galaxy to the 2002 MLS Cup straight out of the gate, but a strong striking corps that included league MVP Carlos Ruiz prevented him from shining.
In 2005, Moreno went north to San Jose and remained with the franchise through their relocation and rebranding as the Houston Dynamo, where he won his second MLS Cup in 2006.
The following year, Moreno left for the colder temperatures of Ohio and had two solid campaigns in three years with the Columbus Crew. As part of a fearful attack that included Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Moreno and the Crew conquered the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup in 2008, and added another Shield in ’09.
“I’ve had the luck in my MLS career to have been a part of teams that have done things very well, teams that have won championships, teams that have had important regular seasons,” Moreno said. “Each one of those teams had some characteristics that allowed them to have that kind of performance.
“Those characteristics were hard work, commitment, believing in what’s being done on the field, believing in the coaching staff, believing in oneself as a player,” he added. “You add all those things, you mix them up and add a little water, and you hope to get a product that you can be proud of.”
Not coincidentally, those are the same characteristics Moreno attempts to exhibit on the pitch, which is why he headed the list of ingredients the Union picked up in the 2009 Expansion Draft to create a winning recipe for their inaugural MLS campaign last year.
The Venezuelan with a strong work ethic and a nose for goal was brought in as a big, physical presence to partner up with a younger stable of speedier forwards. Most importantly, he was tasked with the job of being the veteran leader that could guide the team with his years of MLS experience.
Moreno responded to the challenge with two goals and seven assists as Philadelphia finished seventh in the Eastern Conference. It wasn’t necessarily up to his previous standards, but it was good enough that he was scooped up when left unprotected in last year’s Expansion Draft, paving the way for him to return to Southern California.
The Next Stop
And that’s where he’s expected to be a veteran presence once again, this time with a rebuilt Chivas USA team.
“There are many people in Southern California who love me, who have treated me well,” Moreno said. “People that saw me play with the Galaxy and with whom I share fond memories. Coming back is, in a way, coming full circle. I feel good and I’m ready to begin a new chapter [with Chivas USA].”
With nine goals out of the team’s total of 31, Justin Braun emerged last season as one of league’s breakout stars and the most potent threat of an otherwise relatively stale offense.
What the Goats lacked the most, however, was a veteran leader to bring the team together. There was no one who could rally the troops when the going got tough and help instill a winning mentality.
That role is one all too familiar for Moreno, and one he’s again expected to fill in Carson.
“[Head coach Robin Fraser] has spoken to me about … assuming the role of leader in and out of the field to help build a united front,” Moreno said. “What we’ve been instructed is to change the mentality from last year, know that being a team at the middle of the table is unacceptable. We have to do things better each day. We have to find a way to convert losses into draws and draws into wins.
“Our attitude has to be that of hard work and commitment.”
Moreno joins a bolstered striking corps that includes “Braunaldinho,” brash Ecuadorian newcomer Victor Estupinan, speedy Tristan Bowen and Boca Juniors product Marcos Mondaini. Whether Moreno does most of his leading on or off the pitch remains to be seen, but he’s just concentrating on helping the team in whichever way he can.
Helping Chivas USA find their form of old could be arguably Moreno’s most difficult one in his career, but one he’s is ready to take on.
“I come to contribute, to work,” Moreno said. “One prepares himself in the best way possible to confront the challenge of preseason and the preparations for the regular season.
“With my experience in MLS, with [the Venezuelan] national team, I’ve learned things that I plan on sharing to help my teammates and I succeed,” he added. “I feel very good and I hope that with Chivas USA … we can create a winning franchise.”