SAN JOSE, Calif. – Colombian midfielder Tressor Moreno trained with the San Jose Earthquakes on Thursday, but he might not be doing so for much longer.
Although a report from Colombian newspaper La Cronica del Quindio that Moreno was rejoining Santiago Wanderers of Chile may have been premature, Quakes general manager John Doyle confirmed that the 33-year-old has met with him and coach Frank Yallop to express his disappointment at failing to earn more playing time in his debut MLS season.
“He’s spoken to Frank [Yallop, head coach] and spoken to me a little bit about it, [saying], ‘I’m not happy if I’m not playing,’” Doyle told reporters. “He’s a veteran player who has played [full-time] his whole career. And he’s come and he’s not starting all the time. I think any player at that stage of their career, he wants to continue to play all the time. ... I’m sure his agent, they’ve spoken to different teams about things, and he has options because he’s played in foreign countries and done very well.”
GOAL: Moreno finds Wondo on the back post
A Quakes spokesman said no deal for the former Colombian international is finalized or imminent, but the situation seems to have reached a potential breaking point as San Jose enter the second half of the season.
In 18 matches, Moreno has 12 appearances and six starts. His 557 minutes (out of a possible 1,620) ranks 14th among San Jose field players. He has three assists and no goals.
Doyle didn’t answer directly when asked if he’s actively seeking to move Moreno, but he didn’t do much to quell the speculation, either.
“The main objective is to put quality players on the roster, as many good players as you can have on the roster,” Doyle said. “It’s good to have good players. But when a player does express to you that they’re very disappointed, and they don’t want to [be on the bench], I understand that. It’s a hard thing for the coach. He has 28 men on a roster and the team’s been playing well, we have good players and things are going great.
“We’re always exploring everything. So that’s normal.”
With no translator present, English-speaking reporters at training Thursday couldn't ask questions of the Spanish-speaking Moreno.
The hope for Moreno was that he would be the true No. 10 the Quakes have sought ever since being re-established as an MLS franchise in 2008. Moreno came with an impressive international résumé, including stints in France, Mexico, Brazil and Chile along with 32 caps for his national team.
But after a spell of five starts in seven matches from April 21 to May 23, Moreno has made just two brief appearances in the Quakes’ last five games, including a six-minute shift in San Jose’s 2-1 loss at Portland on Tuesday.
“You bring as many players as you can into a team and they fight for playing time with the coach watching,” Doyle said. “Frank makes those decisions based on what he sees and what he feels. That’s what he does. There’s a lot of players that come into the MLS, and they all have to fight for playing time. They just don’t get to play [automatically].”
The question for the team becomes whether it’s worthwhile to keep an unhappy player on a club that has used its great locker-room chemistry to help fuel a run to the top of the league table.
“[Spirit] goes a long way,” said Quakes forward Alan Gordon, who was speaking about San Jose generally and not Moreno specifically. “We like each other, which doesn’t happen all the time. You may have a lot of stars, and that doesn’t always mix well. I’ve been on a lot of teams with a lot of stars and there was no team chemistry. But we’ve got a lot of team chemistry, and it’s showing on the field.
The Quakes are currently up against the MLS salary cap, Yallop said. If Moreno is transferred out, that would free up a fairly sizeable amount for San Jose to use on finding a replacement and bolstering their roster before the Aug. 15 transfer window closure as the Quakes continue on their quest for the club’s first Supporters’ Shield since 2005 and first MLS Cup since 2003.
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.