New England Soccer Today

Committment Issues

So much for the new number 9.

Less than a week after the Revolution announced the signing of Colombian striker Jose “Pepe” Moreno – their biggest offseason signing so far – it appears that the 30-year-old has cold feet about coming to MLS.

Citing his desire to play alongside recent Once Caldas signing Dayro Moreno and displaying a renewed sense of appreciation for the Manizales-based side, the 6-0 striker has reportedly reneged on playing in Foxboro, at least for the time being.

So now what?

At the moment, the Revolution front office is working feverishly to get Moreno into preseason camp as soon as his visa and ITC paperwork clear. Understandably so. After all, the Colombian striker’s signing was supposed to fill the enormous void left by the departures of Rajko Lekic and Milton Caraglio.

But even if the front office finds a way to grab their runaway goalscorer, what kind of production will they get from from a player who quits on his own team even before steps into the locker room?

That’s the question. A signing who’s suddenly reluctant about joining his new club doesn’t exactly instill confidence in his teammates. There are few players less popular than the disgruntled new guy.

Moreno’s resume may tell a part of the story as to why he’s ducking his responsibilities with the Revolution. Eight teams in 13 seasons. Five different countries. Not exactly the picture of a team-first player.

It’s one thing to bounce from club to club like a raccoon-eyed socialite. A player is free to call his own shots. But it’s another thing entirely to try to snake out of a legally-binding obligation.

Now, it’s entirely possible that this is all a big misunderstanding. That he was somehow misquoted. It happens. But, even the visual evidence – pictures of Moreno training with Once Caldas after the deal was signed have recently emerged – seems to suggest that he’s not in any hurry to join his new teammates.

If that’s the case, the Revolution have a serious problem. Generally, it’s not terribly difficult for team to wash its hands after acquiring a dispirited defender or a mercurial midfielder. But an insolent striker who’s already been given the number 9 jersey? It’s going to take an army of maids to clean up the mess that’s sure to come.

Setting aside the locker room ramifications, another question that has to be asked: Is this what head coach Jay Heaps needs? This is a rebuilding year with a rookie coach at the helm. The last thing Heaps should have to deal with is a potential malcontent. What would happen if, mid-way through the season, it becomes obvious that Moreno’s mind is focused elsewhere?

Of course,  you can’t blame the front office entirely. Few could’ve predicted that, even with Moreno’s well-documented propensity to pursue new opportunities, the Colombian number 9 would bail even before the ink dried on his contract. The only person at fault is Moreno, who may or may not be the solution to New England’s attacking woes.

At the moment, the Revolution only have one other pure forward under contract – Zack Schilawski. And yes, it may seem that the right thing to do is find a way to try to smooth out the misunderstandings with Moreno and get him in the Dana Farber Fieldhouse with the rest of the team post-haste.

But is it worth the trouble? There are many number 9’s out there with better resumes than that of Moreno. We’re not talking about some prolific, designated player-caliber poacher here. Rather, the player in question is a striker who last reached double-digit goal totals around the time that Facebook was birthed.

The situation is not without irony, of course. In November, the Revolution declined its option on Lekic, a center forward who repeatedly stated his desire to remain in New England. Exit Lekic, the charismatic attacker who never wanted to leave, enter Moreno, the enigmatic poacher who doesn’t want to be here.

At this juncture, the best course of action is to simply pull the plug on Pepe. It’s fairly obvious he’d rather stay in Colombia. So let him. Forget the potential public fallout for letting him walk. Better to leave him be than to force him into a situation he may never be ready for.

It’s simple analysis. A number 9 must earn the trust of those around him in order to do his job – i.e. score goals. He, more than any other field player, must be relied upon to deliver when the team needs him the most.  When situation is dire and a goal is needed, the responsibility falls on his shoulders to rescue his team. And the last 72 hours have shown that the flaky forward isn’t worthy of that trust, or responsibility.

Forget Moreno. It’s time for the Revs to find another number 9.


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