Alejandro Moreno has won three MLS Cups in his career. He has been in the league since 2002, and has a great reputation as a player who gives to the team cause, who is the kind of guy teams need in their locker rooms, who is a friendly guy.
Although Moreno is great with intangibles, he hasn't been nearly as great with tangible production. A forward who has always played best as a support striker, Moreno hasn't had a proper target striker to work with in his two seasons with Chivas USA. Still, looking at his career statistics, Moreno has never scored 10 league goals in a season. For his warm reputation around the league, his track record makes clear that he could never be counted on to carry the scoring burden for his team.
Perhaps Robin Fraser was well aware of the 33 year old's declining skills and production, and so he tried to be pragmatic and put Moreno on the field for much of this past season in the midfield. I can see the rationale for it in some respects, since Moreno likes to get stuck in, has shown in the past that he can progress the attack (again, as a support striker), can pop up in opportune moments for goals, and can draw fouls better than just about anybody.
But that logic is a bit mixed up in several key ways. Just because Moreno has good skills as a forward doesn't mean he should supplant a midfielder, in part because he isn't as familiar with the ins and outs of the position. Just like Fraser was keen to disrupt the defensive midfielder and center back positions to accommodate Shalrie Joseph, for little reward, I think the same thing happened with Moreno, as he was shoehorned in at midfield, and as a result prevented midfielders from playing. We'll never know if having other midfielders on the field in Moreno's stead would have changed the team's fortunes, but it did not look to me like he really brought a ton to the position game in and game out.
Another issue with Moreno playing in the midfield is that he was apt to draw fouls, but instead of being along the opponent's box, he was pushed farther back and as a result, the free kick opportunities came from farther out (meaning they weren't as good as scoring opportunities). Still, he did draw key fouls from time to time, like when he drew the foul for Chivas' first penalty kick since August 2010 when the Goats played the Chicago Fire in May.
And production. Moreno had no assists this season, and only had two goals. Here were Moreno's statistics for 2012:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|MLS Regular Season||22||17||1,520||2||0||18||5||1||0|
|U.S. Open Cup||3||2||226||0||0||0||0||0||0|
One of Moreno's goals was in the comeback win against the Portland Timbers in May, and was a good effort to get on the end of Ryan Smith's cross. The other goal he scored should really have been Juan Agudelo's, against the Montreal Impact in June, but it bounced off Moreno's hip on the goal line. To be fair to him, Chivas won both of the games Moreno scored in 2012, but when it is only two goals, that isn't a devastating statistic, is it?
Moreno is currently out of contract, and no team selected him in the recent Re-Entry draft, so he is currently a free agent. He could come back to Chivas, but I don't think it is particularly likely. And I wouldn't really want him back, to be honest. Yes, he has experience and the intangibles and is a Venezuelan international, but two goals on a large salary ($185,000 base salary, $195,000 guaranteed compensation in 2012) doesn't mean good value. If Chivas want to improve in 2012, they need players who can score among the strikers and midfielders, and Moreno isn't doing that enough.
Scoring Threat: C
As Eric Wynalda said, "His only asset is drawing fouls." It's true; Moreno led the team in fouls won. Only two non-defenders (Ben Zemanski and Oswaldo Minda) played more minutes and had fewer shots. Zemanski actually had more shots on goal than Moreno.
Playmaker (Passing/Creativity): C
Moreno didn't do much with the ball. In fact his only two goals were pretty much set up for him. At his age it's an obvious testament to his willpower and drive that he managed to get in and play. That's not meant to be trite; obviously his skills have eroded but he's still determined to get onto the field.
Moreno's frequent absences at the top of the pitch were the result of his tracking back and staying deep on the Chivas side of the pitch. Only Juan Pablo Angel had more clearances but Moreno did top forwards in corners conceded which is like a clearance just kicked in the wrong direction.
- Matthew Hoffman
Please retire Alejandro. I'm starting this campaign now. Not that you haven't had a seasoned run and all, but please. I think it'll be best all around. You can still run at defenses and wear them out, but your performance this season just showed that you are on a bit of a decline. Your time with ESPN since the season ended has actually been pretty great - you balance out Alexi Lalas' crazy very well and provide great commentary. I'll write you a reference letter if you need it too.
- Rachna Kapur
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