With 15 seasons in the books, MLSsoccer.com looks back at the stars, personalities and cult heroes who made Major League Soccer what it is today. We continue our "What Ever Happened To..." series with former MLS MVP Alex Pineda Chacón.
Where He Was Then
He is perhaps the biggest one-hit wonder in MLS history. The Honduran was relatively unheralded when he joined the Miami Fusion in 2001, but he changed that immediately – literally. Pineda Chacón scored a brace off the bench in his first MLS appearance and never looked back, finishing the year with 19 goals, nine assists and the MLS MVP award. The Fusion were contracted following that season, and Pineda Chacón never attained those heights again in stints with New England, Los Angeles and Columbus.
Where He Is Now
After his MLS career leveled off, Pineda Chacón latched on with the Atlanta Silverbacks of the USL, and was a first-team All-League selection for them in 2004. He settled in Atlanta with his wife and three daughters, and in 2007, he took a job as an assistant coach with the Silverbacks while also coaching for the Forsyth Fusion, an Atlanta youth club.
The Silverbacks went on hiatus after the 2008 season while ownership assessed the shifting D-2 soccer landscape. In the ensuing two years, Pineda Chacón intensified his youth coaching activities and, in 2010, the Forsyth Fusion merged with the Atlanta Soccer Academy to form United Futbol Academy (UFA), one of the premier youth clubs in Georgia, with more than 3,000 kids, aged 3 to 18, in its ranks.
[inline_node:328033]Pineda Chacón has coached boys’ and girls’ teams in multiple age groups. As for his daughters’ involvement with the club, well, it’s limited.
“I think they like the game,” he told MLSsoccer.com with a chuckle, “but maybe they don’t love it.”
When the Silverbacks announced their return – they’ll join the restructured NASL this spring – Pineda Chacón rejoined their coaching staff, now headed up by former Mexican international and New England Revolution alum José Manuel Abundis.
Pineda Chacón is looking forward to returning to the professional coaching ranks.
“At the youth level, you develop players, and I love doing that,” he said, “but at the same time, I always want to be involved at the professional level. ”
No surprise there: Before coming to MLS, Pineda Chacón won six Honduran championships with Olimpia and one Peruvian title with Sporting Cristal. He was also a mainstay with the Honduran national team for more than a decade.
“I played a lot of years and the players respect that and they’re always looking for some feedback on a specific situation,” he said, “so I enjoy the opportunity to pass that along to professional players.”
His ultimate goal is to be involved with an MLS coaching staff. He nearly got the opportunity a few years back, when his former Fusion teammate Preki, who had just accepted the Chivas USA job, called him.
“I was pretty surprised, because when I came here, [I didn’t have much English and] I just said things like ‘water’ and ‘all done’ and ‘well done,’” he recalled, “and I never really talked to Preki in Miami.”
[inline_node:328032]But after they spoke on the phone for half an hour, Preki invited Pineda Chacón to interview for an assistant coaching position with the Goats. The job ultimately went to former US international Carlos Llamosa, who was already based in LA, but Pineda Chacón remains a viable MLS coaching candidate.
“Hopefully one day,” he said. “Maybe right here in Atlanta. You never know.”
Naturally, Pineda Chacón has fond memories of his year in Miami, when the Fusion fielded an offensive juggernaut coached by Ray Hudson and powered by Diego Serna (15 goals), Preki, Chris Henderson, Ian Bishop and Pablo Mastroeni. Miami scored 57 goals in 26 regular-season games and won the Supporters’ Shield, but ended up losing in the conference finals to eventual champions San Jose.
“That was a great, great team,” he said. “I remember one ESPN highlight where we made like, 25, 26 passes without the other team touching the ball, and then we scored a goal. In many years I didn’t see another team like the Fusion.”
And his stunning MLS debut becomes even more amazing when Pineda Chacón fills in the context. He was the last international signed by Miami that season, and had participated in only three training sessions with the team before the opener.
“Ray Hudson told me, ‘Alex, you wait on the bench, see what the level is and then maybe you can jump in [later in the game],” he remembered.
With 17 minutes left and the Fusion down 1-0, Hudson called him over.
“My heart was beating so hard, you know?” he said. “But I asked, ‘Any specific information?’ Hudson just said, ‘Alex: Enjoy it. Jump in and enjoy.’”
Boy did he ever.
What They Said
"He was really humble when he came in, even though he had a successful international career with Honduras and was a legend in Honduras, but we knew very little about him. To be so humble and to wait his turn and do what he did was just remarkable."
– Pablo Mastroeni, Fusion teammate during Pineda Chacón’s historic 2001 season