Scouting Portland’s Newest Signing, Santiago Moreno

by Charlie Folkestad

The Portland Timbers have a new signing, and his name is Santiago Moreno! This rumor first surfaced a couple of weeks ago and now has enough legs for Tom Bogert to write about it on MLSsoccer.com. That’s officially official in my eyes.

Where does he play?

Moreno has played exclusively with Club América de Cali—not to be confused with Deportivo Cali—in the Colombian Primera A. He has 34 career Primera A regular season appearances (24 starts), seven in the playoffs (all starts), and 11 in international cup competitions (seven starts).

He’s listed as a right winger but has also filled in at the 10 and on the left.

In order to evaluate South American players, it’s always important to understand the competitions in which they play. Primera A is the top league in Colombia, meaning they send their best clubs to the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana (effectively the South American-versions of the Champions League and Europa League, respectively) every year. These competitions are a much bigger deal and have a much higher competitive level than Primera A.

Like Liga MX, each Primera A calendar year is split into Apertura and Clausura seasons, with the aggregated table determining who goes to the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana. A team can also qualify for Copa Sudamericana by winning the domestic cup competition, the Copa Colombia.

Separate champions are crowned for each Apertura and Clausura season. América de Cali won the 2019 Clausura and 2020 Apertura titles, both of which Moreno played a minor role in (seven total starts in those two years).

Unfortunately, Moreno’s increased minutes led to a downturn in overall team performance, likely from the departure of fellow winger Matias Pisano. The good news, though, is that Moreno has been one of CD América’s best players since then, grading out as their highest-rated player from the 2021 Apertura season by LiveScore.

How does he play?

Some kind soul made this touch compilation of Moreno’s performance against Club Athletico Paranense (from Brazil) in Copa Sudamericana. This was his most recent appearance for CD América, and it will likely be his last. There’s also a public 10-minute highlight compilation of Moreno for those unable to use Wyscout.

Moreno is the main chance creator for CD América. His biggest strengths are his speed, 1v1 dribbling, and off-ball movement. He also has some nice touch on the ball, as seen in 4:52 of the video below.

Moreno’s ability to turn into space could be a little better, but the biggest attribute that needs work is his decision making. This is a super obvious statement for a young player—especially one from a more chaotic league like Primera A—and he’ll have plenty of opportunity to improve this in MLS.

My first instinct was to compare Moreno to Dairon Asprilla because of their shared tendencies to play one inch out of control on the ball, but there’s another Colombian winger on the roster he reminds me of: Yimmi Chará. I think the best description would be a combination of the two.

There is little advanced statistical insight of Primera A available, but the most promising praise has come straight from the CD América manager, Juan Carlos Osorio:

That’s a good thing to hear if you’re a fan of the club a player is moving to.

Are we getting a good deal?

This is always the toughest question when it comes to young prospects entering MLS. Transfer fees can vary based on how much of a player’s rights you purchase (for future sign-on fee purposes), what the bonuses are, and what mechanism you use to sign them.

Transfermarkt values Moreno at $1.76 million, the highest on CD América’s squad. Rumors have said his fee will be anywhere from $2.5 million to $5 million.

The Athletic reported that Moreno will be on a U-22 Initiative deal. If you don’t know what that means, good on you. You’re not insane. You can read about it in the roster rules, but briefly:

  • U-22 Initiative is NOT the same as a Young Designated Player
  • MLS made it up last year to encourage more investment in young players
  • Portland will save salary cap space while getting a good young player

We can’t quite answer this question without knowing contract details, but the early signs say probably. Obviously it also depends on how well Moreno can perform at the top level of MLS, but this is a great soon-to-be-starting-caliber signing for a squad dealing with a ton of injuries.

 

Catch more thoughts on Moreno and the Portland Timbers on the Double Post Podcast and on Twitter @DoublePostPod. Give us your questions, comments, and concerns about Moreno, the Timbers, or MLS!

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