As the squad prepared for a scrimmage at a cold and rainy 7 a.m. practice, assistant coach James Gledhill instructed all of his players to take a knee.
While every member of the team kneeled, freshman midfielder Albert Moreno remained standing and looked around confused, as his teammates jokingly shouted his name in half-hearted frustration.
A few seconds later, the Solsona, Spain native took the hint and also took a knee as the team laughed along with him.
Along with senior midfielder Jorge Gomez Sanchez and senior defender Carlos Moros Gracia, Moreno is one of three Spanish players on the team.
“I didn’t understand Gleddy when he said we had to put our knee to the ground,” Moreno said. “It happens to me because Gleddy has an accent, so sometimes, I cannot understand him and [Gomez Sanchez] and [Moros Gracia] have to translate for me.”
Switching from Spanish to English is just one of the transitions Moreno has had to make both on and off the field since coming to Temple.
As a midfielder, Moreno usually plays alongside senior Kevin Klett and sophomore Hermann Doerner. Moreno has started in every game for the Owls (6-3, 0-1 American Athletic Conference) and is the only freshman to do so.
“I think he’s different from our other two midfielders,” coach David MacWilliams said. “He has the ability where he can dribble, and he can go by people to create numerical advantages. So he’s one of those guys that can beat guys one-v-one.”
So far, Moreno has recorded eight shots and one assist. His assist came in Temple’s 4-0 victory against Fairfield University on Sept. 17 when he crossed the ball in front of the net and Gomez Sanchez kicked it in.
Since Moreno started playing for the Owls, he has already begun to improve and adjust to soccer in America, which requires a different style of play than Moreno was accustomed to while playing in Spain.
“I think he’s improved on speed of play,” MacWilliams said. “It’s a lot different than what he’s used to in Spain, so I think he is getting adapted to the speed and the college game. Albert is getting better and better each game we play, and I think that’s something that all foreign players need to adjust to because it is such an intense, quickly paced game.”
Moreno excelled overseas and was selected to play on the national team representing the Catalonia region of Spain. Despite the success he saw on the national team, he still gets more playing time at Temple, which is part of the reason he chose to come to America.
“I thought it could be a challenging opportunity,” Moreno said. “In Spain, it’s difficult to become professional. Also, they cannot help the people who want to study, and this opportunity for me is really good because at the same time, I can study and I can play soccer, which is what I want.”
Moreno has found both positive and negative aspects of speaking Spanish as his first language. While it sometimes takes him longer to understand or catch on, he has also formed close bonds because of his heritage.
Gomez Sanchez, Moros Gracia and Moreno all call Spain their homeland. When together, they can freely speak their native language and talk about things going on at home.
“We have a very good relationship between us,” Gomez Sanchez said. “Being from the same country helps, and also he’s a nice guy and I like to hang out with him.”
Moros Gracia helped recruit Moreno and talked to him on the phone, explaining what Temple was like and the benefits of being on the team. Now, more than a month into the school year, the two, along with Gomez Sanchez, are like old friends.
Moreno claims he can make a tortilla de patatas (a Spanish omelet) better than his Spanish teammates, and Gomez Sanchez poked fun at Moreno’s belief that Catalonia should be independent from Spain.
“He’s a nice guy, he’s very smart on the feet,” Gomez Sanchez said. “He’s a tough player because he’s big, plays hard. And he’s my friend.”
Maura Razanauskas can be reached at email@example.com.