Amando Moreno left a strong enough impression after scoring the winner in the final Reserve League match for the New York Red Bulls in September that assistant coach Mike Petke approached the young forward to tell him he felt he had the potential to be a big player in the future.
It turns out the future might be sooner than even Moreno could have expected.
Three months after that goalscoring performance in the Red Bulls’ 3-1 win over Toronto FC’s reserves, Moreno signed a Homegrown deal with the Red Bulls on Tuesday. The 17-year-old (above left, with fellow signing Santiago Castano) recently found out about the Red Bulls' offer while in the car with his mom, and he was in utter disbelief, while she was in tears.
Moreno joins the Red Bulls first team after having played in the club's academy since November 2009, and he already has experience training with the likes of Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill after spending the last two-and-a-half months of the 2012 season training with the senior team.
“Going from the academy to the pro team is the difference between being a boy and being a man,” Moreno told MLSsoccer.com. “Once you’re on the first team, it’s completely different. You have to be much more physical and quicker, so you obviously learn a lot.
“I was there two-and-a-half months and I got called up to the [US] national team and I saw my progress instantly. It was crazy how much I learned from all these guys. If I learned that much in such a short amount of time, imagine in two years.”
One of the first lessons Moreno learned came courtesy of Henry and it is one the 5-foot-7 forward won’t soon forget. After turning the ball over in a small-sided game, Moreno received criticism from one of his teammates. He responded by mouthing off, and that is when Henry came in and took out him with a tackle.
Moreno was down in pain for a couple of minutes but the message from the team captain was clear.
“Henry did it to teach me a lesson, to keep my mouth shut,” Moreno said. “I’m the young guy here and these guys could be like my parents, I should have respect for them and I quickly learned. In a way I kind of thank him for that because it kind of opened my eyes, like I can’t be talking to these guys in that way.
“They’re obviously pros and have much more experience than me, so instead of talking back to them, just agree with them and quickly learn that I’ve got to learn my place.”
Moreno also recently learned what it is like to play for the US Under-18 men’s national team. Born in New Jersey to a Mexican father and Salvadoran mother, Moreno received his first call-up from US U-18 head coach Javier Perez last month for a pair of friendlies against Canada.
The Morganville, N.J., native did not expect to play in either of the two games, as he thought there were already established starters and first-choice bench players. But play he did, coming off the bench late in the first match on Nov. 21 in his debut.
“I wasn’t too worried because I knew I wasn’t going to play, but as soon as Javier Perez, the head coach, told me, ‘Amando, warm up,’ I didn’t know what to feel,” Moreno said. “I just put it in my head I can’t mess up and stay concentrated and if you get your opportunity, put it away.”
Moreno did just that, scoring on a rebound in the 90th minute to cap the Americans’ 3-1 win over their northern rivals. Moreno then received a longer look in the second game two days later, as he came off the bench at halftime before rescuing the United States from defeat by scoring the equalizer in the 87th minute of a 2-2 draw.
While he will likely have to be a bit more patient in terms of finding playing time with the Red Bulls, Moreno does not mind. He understands that he has a lot more learning to do to hone his game and he says he is team-oriented even though he loves nothing more than scoring goals.
Like with the US U-18 team though, Moreno is planning on making the most of his opportunities if and when they should come.
“Even if I play five minutes, I’ve got to show everybody why I got picked,” Moreno said. “I just want to go and show everybody why I was chosen to be in the first team, but my main goal is to be with all these guys and eventually be in the starting XI.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.