Atlanta United’s shiny new Designated Player joined the team in late September and played from mid-October on. Obviously that was late in a season that was already pretty much written off, but we did get to see a spark of what Moreno might be able to produce for the Stripes going forward. He’s a central midfielder, and came to United from Argentina’s Lanus, which was the same source we got Miguel Almiron from. That leads to an immediate comparison, but the differences between the two players are probably as many as the similarities.
Games Played: 6 Games (5 Starts)
What went right this season?
Despite playing less than 5 1⁄2 games, Moreno led the team in shots (1 every 33.2 minutes), shots on goal (1 every 66.4 minutes) and goals per 90 minutes (0.39). He was tied for 3rd (with Emerson Hyndman and Brooks Lennon) in scoring percentage, behind only Jon Gallagher and...Jeff Larentowicz. For a team that struggled to even get in shooting range, that’s a strong positive.
There is one caveat to the two goals he scored, though: they were both penalty kicks. Amazingly, Atlanta only had 4 penalties all season, scoring on 3 (the miss was Ezequiel Barco; the other score was...Jeff Larentowicz). So at a perfect 100% we can expect to see him in fevered debate with Josef Martinez over the penalty spot in 2021.
Scoring was not really what he was brought in to do, of course. The Pity Martinez experiment at central midfield never really worked out despite the hype, and his departure was was no surprise. Martinez played his last game for United on August 29th, and Moreno played his first on October 10th, which tends to suggest that he deal was in the pipeline long before that. The stylistic change was immediately obvious. Moreno is fast with the ball and unafraid to drive forward. In that he is much like Almiron. However, he is also aggressive in the challenge and difficult to dispossess, rather more like Darlington Nagbe. And, most definitely unlike Pity, he is fun to watch.
What does he need to improve on?
This is less clear. To be fair, a player who came in so late in a poor season, working with an interim coach and without the team’s iconic goalscorer, can only be expected to do so much. Even so, he’s already producing, and it’s not that he needs to improve as that the team needs to improve around him.
What role will he play in 2021?
The return of Josef Martinez is going to be the true test of what Moreno can do for United. Will that lead to Dragonball Z: The Sequel? Perhaps not exactly, but the two are going to have to develop a connection. He’s also going to have to integrate with Barco on his left (assuming he’s still around) and Jürgen Damm on his right. That process is already under way, of course, but they are all working without the point man up front. Let’s hope the plan works out.