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SSFC Spotlight: Shaq Moore has breakout performance against Haiti

The fullback was a bright spot in 1-0 victory.

United States v Haiti: Group B - 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The United States Men’s National Team opened the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup with a 1-0 victory over Haiti. While not a thoroughly convincing performance from the group, defender Shaq Moore drew praise after starting in place of an injured Reggie Cannon. He was named Man of the Match, impressing with his driving runs forward and disruptive tackling to win back possession. In his return to the setup and first call-up under Gregg Berhalter, the 24-year-old Tenerife right back seized the opportunity and catapulted back into the greater American soccer picture.

Born in Fort Lauderdale and raised in Atlanta by a sporting family, his father and maternal uncle are former Trinidad and Tobago internationals, enabling the talented prospect to be trained by former Soca Warriors manager Bertille St. Clair. During his youth career, Moore played with the Cobb Futbol Club, IMG Academy, and the FC Dallas youth setup before going on trial in Spain with Valencia, Levante, and Huracán. In May of 2015, he signed his first professional contract with the latter Rojiblanca, excited to join “a family club” providing the opportunity to “make mistakes” and “play freely.” There was also reported interest from Sogndal, several English Premier League sides, and Red Bull Salzburg.

After struggling to adjust to the new country due to the language barrier and being unable to play while waiting for paperwork to be finalized, Moore made six appearances in the Segunda División B but left Huracán due to alleged financial issues. According to MARCA, the club had not paid him for months and there were rats in the locker room. “It is already difficult to be an American playing in Europe, and this mess made things more complicated,” said the then-19-year-old. “It is not what I expected and it is a shame that it happens at a great club like Huracán Valencia. But this situation exposes me to what can happen in the football business, and that will help me in the future if it happens again.”

He spent a brief spell with the Real Oviedo reserves before joining La Liga side Levante in August of 2016. Initially playing with the B-squad, the club called him up to the first team a year later due to an injury, eventually making his debut against Girona in the Copa del Rey. Management praised his “discipline” and hard work, describing him as a physical “marvel.”

Moore would make eight total appearances that season, including a headline generating match against Barcelona. He started and played the full 90 minutes in a 3-0 loss to the Spanish giants at Camp Nou. “After a few minutes you realize they’re people too and you can compete,” the defender told The 18. “Yeah, I was star-struck and all the YouTube videos I watched of him started popping I my head when I saw Messi right there.”

Despite starting to break through, his progression would take another step back after losing the starting role. He was sent on a year-long loan to CF Reus Deportiu in the second tier. Despite enjoying regular playing time, he returned to Levante early due to reported unpaid wages. For the rest of the season, Moore remained in the reserves, only returning to the first-team bench for the final match.

His career would then take a fortuitous turn, signing a three-year contract at CD Tenerife in the Segunda, with Levante negotiating a buyback option and percentage of a future transfer fee. Competing for the tropical club located in the Canary Islands can be a delightful grind, requiring constant travel to the mainland, but Moore has experienced true consistency while also enjoying the “spectacular” beaches. After starting his first season on the bench, he made 30 total appearances, contributing one goal and four assists. Tete even made a run to the Round of 16 in the Copa del Rey.

There was no doubting Moore’s importance to Tenerife this most recent season. He signed a contract extension through 2024 and made 41 appearances at right back. Local outlet El Dorsal praised his “great physical power” and “physique,” one of the most regular inclusions in the lineup. The club recently brought in competition for next year, perhaps indicating a future transfer. Despite being considered an “important piece,” a reported change in representation from Wasserman to “the multinational” ICM Stellar Sports indicates the possibility of a move.

Similar to the club career, his international standing has been a series of peaks and valleys. He served as captain for the U.S. U-17 national team at the 2013 CONCACAF Championship, a squad that failed to reach the World Cup. Two years later, Moore made two appearances at the U-20 World Cup.

A dual-national, Trinidad and Tobago rejected him after “unsuccessful trials” at the U-15 level, although there are “no hard feelings.” Along with his father, he created the “Shaq Moore Youth Classic,” providing “a prime opportunity for youngsters to develop as athletes.” The tournament endeavors to “give back, while positively contributing to the island’s sporting landscape.”

He made his U.S. senior international debut in 2018, appearing in a friendly victory over Ireland. Moore would make five appearances that year for interim manager Dave Sarachan, including a fantastic display in a 1-1 draw against France. Despite his solid performances with Tenerife, Berhalter never called him into the squad until the recent Gold Cup. Inclusion on the 59-player preliminary roster was something of a surprise after such a long absence, surpassed by being named to the final squad.

His performance against Haiti was validating although not surprising to any who have followed his progress in Spain. “We’ve been putting in the work,” Moore said after the match. “It’s never easy. [It’s a] different level, different speed coming in. I think I did alright. It’s a good [starting] point obviously. I’m still working my way up to match fitness, but I think as the tournament goes on, I’ll be alright.”

Despite not being at full fitness, he Gold Cup opener provided a glimpse into his dynamic nature and strong tackling. Contributing on both sides of the ball, the constant runs up and down the field injected the squad with energy and allowed for improved possession. Moore is able to get into the right positions, both inside and outside of the box. One definite area for improvement is conversion in the final third and taking advantage of his movement, whether by being more accurate with crosses or finishing those occasional open shots.

Ahead of the third round of World Cup qualifying, the Gold Cup is a massive opportunity for many players. Right back is perhaps the deepest position for the USMNT, but many of the potential call-ups are not as well-regarded for their defensive abilities. Somehow one of the program’s veterans at the age of 24, Moore has taken a winding road through the various divisions of Spain, persevering through expected challenges and unforeseen off-field issues including the dissolution of two former clubs. For now, he is an intriguing option but quickly could become more of a factor with continued strong performances.