Jose ‘Pepe’ Moreno forces the Revolution to look for another path, for now

Jose "Pepe" Moreno signed with the new England Revolution and now seems to be backing out of the deal. Not a good sign for the Revs.

 By Kevin Koczwara

“We still don’t know with certainty that the quotes attributed to him were in fact his, so if they are, we need to understand what he’s dealing with and where his feelings are coming from before we proceed and find some resolution on the matter.” — Brian Bilello, President of The New England Revolution

A week or so after the Major League Soccer SuperDraft I spoke with Mike Burns, General Manager of the New England Revolution, about the team’s latest signings, John Lozano and Fernando Cárdenas, from Colombia. Burns said he and coach Jay Heaps went down to Colombia one weekend to watch the league’s relegation playoffs. In passing Burns mentioned he and Heaps had discussions with other players.

“We had discussions with some other players as well that didn’t work out for a variety of reasons,” said Burns. “But we were pleased we were able to sign these guys.”

On February 2, the Revolution announced that it signed Pepe Moreno on a one year loan with an option to buy from Once Caldas of the Colombian top-division. The 30-year-old striker has had a bumpy career, bouncing from team to team, looking for a place to call a permanent home. Moreno played for America da Cali (the same club Lozano and Cárdenas played for) on three separate occasions, played eight games for Dynamo Kyiv while on loan, and played 22 games for Independiente (one of Argentina’s top clubs) — spending most of his time on loan on five separate occasions in five years for the Argentine club.

The Revolution have been looking for a goal-scorer since Taylor Twellman suffered career ending concussions. New England has tried out plenty of forwards since, and none have really stuck. The ones that looked promising — Marko Perovic, Rajko Lekic, Milton Caraglio — all found themselves either without a contract or not having their options picked up by the the team for one reason or another.  Moreno is the team’s latest attempt at finding the most elusive of talents: a goal scorer.

“He can jump, he can shoot – he can do all the things you want your No. 9 to do,” said Heaps of Moreno in the Revolution’s press release on Feb, 2. “He’s a big, strong player and we’re hoping his addition will [help us at] a position that we’ve desperately been looking for – someone who can hold it for us so we can then get our midfield up the field.”

Heaps’ hopes were high. He wanted a forward who could get the ball and hold it up front, keep possession so the creative midfielders Heaps has at his disposal — Benny Feilhaber, Kelyn Rowe, and Shalrie Joseph — can push higher up the field and put pressure on defenders and score goals. Now, though, Moreno may not be the answer the Revolution are looking for.

New England Soccer Today reported that comments from Moreno had appeared in Colombia saying he didn’t want to move to MLS and New England, that he wanted to stay and play out the year in Colombia with new teammate and friend Dayro Moreno. According to NE Soccer Today, Moreno said he was convinced to stay and voiced his opinion.

Revolution President Brian Bilello said the paperwork has been signed, and the Revolution did everything on their part to work out and finish the deal with Moreno.

“These reports surprised us because last week, Michael Burns traveled to Colombia and met personally with Jose and Once Caldas executives to sign the necessary paperwork to complete the loan deal. At that time, Jose signed his MLS contract, and both Jose and Once Caldas officials signed the loan agreement. With everything signed, we announced his signing last Wednesday [Feb. 2] once MLS received all of the documentation and approved the announcement,” writes Bilello in a statement released by the team.

As of Feb. 9, the Revolution front office hadn’t heard from Moreno, according to Bilello’s written statements. If Moreno does decide to skimp out on his agreement with the Revolution, and the Revolution are left searching again, it won’t be because the front office didn’t try, a recent complaint of the team from its fans. Moreno will leave the deal on his own, and it might be for the best because no one, especially fans, want to root for players who don’t want to be around or represent the jersey and team they love.

Now it’s time for the Revolution to look for other answer. Look inside the team it has, maybe. Look outside for players on trial, or adapt to the world it’s living in, finally.

Global soccer has drifted away from target forwards, for the most part. Teams are playing the ball on the ground, or sitting deep and countering quickly, with pace and power, not with aerial crosses or big lumbering forwards. Teams are moving towards trying to imitate Barcelona and succeeding at times, like Swansea in the Premier League. Or teams are taking a note from Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid and Inter Milan teams, sitting deep, absorbing pressure and pushing forward in a flash. Or a combination of the two, like Manchester City, where David Silva adds the Spanish skill and creativity, Yaya Toure brings the bite and power in the midfield, and Kun Aguero scores goals and creates chances by pressing defenders across the field.

The Revolution are now late in the game in signing players. Most other MLS teams have made their moves and signed their players. The Revolution have to decide on trialists they’ve brought in, and the what they are going to do with the players they already have.

Options the Revolution Have With Current Roster of Signed Players

  • Pressing high with Sainey Nyassi or Kenny Mansally playing as the lone forward, working hard, creating chances, and getting in behind defenses with their speed. Take them off the wing and let them run in the channels for Rowe and Feilhaber to pick a pass.
  • Play a 4-4-1-1 with Zack Schilawski working under someone like Mansally. Schilawski has a good work rate and is a better passer than Mansally. But Mansally is a work horse who gets under defenders skins with his pace and relentless pursuit of the ball. The combination could force teams to play around and over the midfield, giving Feilhaber more room to operate and push through.
  • Give Ryan Kinne a chance somewhere, anywhere. He is a player who can cross the ball and keep sticking around despite being a supplemental draft pick last season. He’s a player that impresses me everytime I see him work in practice or in games.
  • Get lucky with players from the lower leagues in Europe.
  • Don’t overwork Diego Fagundez, but find time and space for him to operate and play.

Editor’s Note: It was announced today that the Revolution signed French Forward Saër Sène from Bayern Munich for free.

Kevin Koczwara can be reached at kkoczwar@gmail.com.

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