It is kind of amazing to look back at the season of today's entry in our ongoing series, Chivas USA forward Alejandro Moreno, and see how many games he actually played in 2011. In his first season with the Goats, Moreno made 24 appearances on the season (with 22 starts). The 32-year old brought a lot of MLS experience to the team, with past stints with the Philadelphia Union, Columbus Crew, Houston Dynamo, San Jose Earthquakes, and LA Galaxy, respectively. He scored the most goals in his career in 2011 since 2008, and ended the season as club captain and won the club's "Spirit of Chivas USA" award. It's clear that the coaching staff thinks very highly of him and that he will be in the team's plans in 2012.
What made his 24 appearances for the season so surprising was that Moreno missed significant time in the middle of the season as he represented Venezuela at the Copa America, where the Venezuelan National Team made a shock run to the semifinals, by far the best finish in their history. For Chivas, Moreno missed nine of ten matches between June 1 and July 23. So in essence, he missed nearly two full months of the season, and that was basically all he missed on the entire season. If that doesn't demonstrate trust in a player by coach Robin Fraser, I don't know what does.
One of the reasons Moreno saw so much time on the field was because he seemed to fit in Chivas' various tactical formations. Chivas spent much of the season in a 4-4-2, and Moreno was able to play well as a support striker, playing occasionally as a target man, but more often pouncing on balls in the box as a goal poacher. He spent a few games up top as a lone striker, and although it wasn't particularly successful, Moreno worked hard to try and keep opposing defenses occupied. And in a 4-3-3 towards the end of the season, he often drifted back into the midfield and floated around the field.
The fundamental problem in 2011 was that Moreno and Justin Braun were both support strikers, and through the months in which they played together up top, the attack lacked considerable bite. With Braun shipped off to the Montreal Impact, Moreno can clearly become the designated support striker, playing off a dominant forward. This seemed to work fantastically when Juan Pablo Angel came on board, and could prove successful again in 2012. The risk is that Moreno and Angel are both pretty old, and an injury to either player could prove catastrophic to the team's chemistry, but it seems likely the team will be banking on them up front.
I made a lot of jokes on twitter about Moreno's best skill for Chivas was that he could earn fouls - a joke but often pretty true. There were two problems with Moreno's ability to draw fouls - he never managed to get one in the 18-yard box for a penalty, and Chivas' set pieces were below average, so although he set up free kicks, the team could not convert them often enough. If Moreno can increase his scoring tally, even a little, for 2012, and maybe draw a penalty or two, I would be very happy with his production. His advanced age and inconsistency makes me a bit nervous about the team's plans. I hope reinforcements are on the way for the forward line, and I hope Moreno and JPA do not represent the two best forwards on the squad for the season, unless they are both able to play out of their skin for eight full months.
Still, Moreno brought a few goals, a lot of leadership, and those much-respected intangibles in 2011. Here's hoping he can contribute further for Chivas in 2012.
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