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Alejandro Moreno: Three titles with three teams
by Mike Woitalla, November 24th, 2008 7AM
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[MLS CUP 2008]Alejandro Moreno, who scored Columbus' crucial opening goal, has now won three MLS titles with three different teams. The Venezuelan's American soccer adventure began at a youth tournament in Texas.

Moreno, who was raised in Caracas, played in the Dallas Cup with his Venezuelan club team when he was 12 years old, and then started spending summers playing youth club ball in North Texas.

"That's how I learned English," he said. "Every summer I tried to get better at it."

Moreno stayed with various families. ("They kind of rotated me around a bit. Too much of a pain in the ass, I guess," he joked.) He played for the Dallas Texans and attended a Dallas high school in his senior year before moving on UNC Greensboro.

"You could tell he was special the first time you saw him play," said his Dallas Texans' coach Hassan Nazari. "He was very competitive, but he hated to run. He didn't like the fitness work. He always came in last in fitness, but he could do everything else. He could do magic with the ball."

As he got older Moreno began working harder on the physical aspects of the game. When Nazari told UNC Greensboro coach Michael Parker that Moreno would be a great addition to his team, Parker said he first wanted to see Moreno play at a showcase tournament.

"I told him that wouldn't be a good idea," Nazari said, "because when other college coaches saw him, Moreno would be flooded with offers."

Parker offered Moreno a scholarship without seeing him play, telling Nazari he trusted his opinion. Moreno went on to score 65 goals and tally 25 assists in four seasons for the Spartans.

"My family has always stressed education," said Moreno. "My idea was always to get an education and play soccer competitively as long as I could."

Moreno was the 27th overall pick in the 2002 draft, nabbed by the Sigi Schmid-coached Los Angeles Galaxy. Moreno started and played the first 67 minutes of the 2002 MLS Cup that the Galaxy won, 1-0, against New England. After Schmid was fired by the Galaxy, Moreno moved to the San Jose Earthquakes, which became the Houston Dynamo in 2006. Moreno was a 81st-minute sub in Houston's penalty-kick tiebreaker win over the New England in MLS Cup 2006.

After playing four games for Houston in 2007 and failing to score, Moreno moved to Columbus, where he reunited with Schmid, who had failed to get the Crew to the playoffs in 2006, his first season in Columbus. Moreno scored seven goals and made seven assists in 25 games in 2007 but the Crew again missed postseason play.

In 2008, Moreno had his most productive MLS season yet, scoring nine regular-season goals and adding four assists. Columbus took the regular-season title, the Supporters' Shield.

A half hour into MLS Cup 2008, as the New York Red Bulls began dominating play, gaining confidence, and mustering a few good scoring chances, Moreno struck.

Guillermo Barros Schelotto snatched the ball away from Red Bull Dave van den Bergh, who was trying to let it roll out of bounds, and fed Moreno down the wing. Moreno sped down the flank with the ball, eluded defender Diego Jimenez, and struck a hard low shot from a tight angle past goalkeeper Danny Cepero.

"When I looked up my first idea was to cross the ball," said Moreno. "But then I felt with an accurate shot I could beat him [Cepero] at the far post."

And so he did, delivering a cruel blow to the Red Bulls just as they were establishing superiority. Although they tied the game for two minutes in the second half, the Red Bulls' upset quest ended on two more goals set up by Schelotto. For Moreno, the third title was the sweetest, and not just because of his first MLS Cup goal.

"This is special in the sense of where we were last year and where we are this year," said the 29-year-old Moreno. "It's a long way. It took a lot of belief from the ownership in Sigi, and from Sigi in the players, and from the players in Sigi."

 



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