CARSON, Calif. — Alejandro Moreno alone carried the flag for MLS in this year’s Copa América. And he carried it well.
The Chivas USA forward helped Venezuela to an unprecedented fourth-place finish at the tournament in Argentina, eclipsing their fifth-place finish in 1967. According to Moreno, who made three appearances including starting in the semifinal, it could be a catalyst for la Vinotino, who are still searching for their first-ever World Cup berth.
“It was important for us to cherish the moment and rise to the occasion, and I think that we did that many times,” Moreno told MLSsoccer.com upon his return to the United States. “In that semifinal game, we should have won because we carried the match and we were unfortunate not to go to the final. For us, it was a great experience, and it sets us up for World Cup qualifiers, which we begin later this year.”
Moreno didn’t score in Argentina and was mainly used as a second-half sub to hold up play and help the side secure victories. However, he did earn several chances at goal and was unlucky not to find the back of the net.
Regardless, Moreno’s very presence in Argentina was notable enough. When Venezuela reached the semifinals, where they lost on penalties to Paraguay, it meant that Chivas USA had a representative in the South American championship final four, while high profile clubs like Real Madrid and FC Barcelona did not.
“I’m very proud of representing Chivas USA and Major League Soccer down there, and I’m well aware that I was the only player from MLS playing in the Copa América,” Moreno said. “I speak very highly of this league. I think the world of this league. I grew up in this league, and I owe a lot to MLS and now to Chivas USA. For me, I carried that responsibility with a sense of pride.”
With his adventure in Argentina now complete, the Chivas USA captain returns to Southern California at an important time for the club. The Rojiblancos are unbeaten in five games, and have climbed up to sixth place in the West. On Sunday, they kick off a five-game road swing with a match against Western Conference power FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park (7 pm ET, Galavisión), and Moreno, buoyed by his national team’s success, is eager to contribute.
“I did not go back to Venezuela with the national team so I could get back here and back to training as soon as possible,” Moreno said. “So I could give the coaching staff the chance to evaluate me and decide whether or not I was ready to play Dallas. I put my body in the services of the coaching staff, and they’ll make the decision”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @adamserrano