For Ricardo Moreira, being Orlando City SC’s director of scouting is about more than just looking at a player and deciding if he’s talented enough to play for the Lions.
He has to be aware of the global market and expiring contracts. He has to know exactly what coach James O’Connor thinks the team needs. He needs to know if that player to gel well with the rest of the group already in Central Florida. Executive vice president of soccer operations Luiz Muzzi must be kept in the loop.
There’s a lot for Moreira to balance, but since he was hired at the end of October, he’s been one of the key figures behind the scenes of Orlando City’s roster overhaul between the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
“That’s something I brought to the club, I think … active scouting,” Moreira told Pro Soccer USA. “Lots of clubs – it works in some places, some places it doesn’t – they tend to react to offers of players from other clubs, from agents, et cetera. I like to do the opposite.”
Moreira, a 34-year-old with a wife, Camila, and a son, João, who is less than 1 year old, watches “five or six” games per day. Plus, he’s regularly at Orlando City’s training sessions. He has two scouts working underneath him and the club is looking to add “a couple more,” he said.
When watching a player, Moreira said he’s looking at not just the skill of the athlete, but skills of his opposition. He interviews every player on Orlando City’s scouting radar. Then, he interviews the player’s coaches, teammates and past teammates.
Of course, he’s also looking for players who fit in with the culture O’Connor is trying to build. “Honesty” is the first trait he looks for, he said.
“I’m watching [centerback] Robin Jansson,” he said. “Of course, I liked Robin Jansson. Then, I’m going to watch every, or almost every attacker, that he played against.”
Moreira said part of being a successful director of scouting is building a network of contacts around the world. Off the top of his head, he’d guess “thousands” of people are in the network he shares with Muzzi.
“It’s a funny story, because actually, I started as a sports lawyer,” said Moreira, who was born in Brazil. “I worked for a big – I would say the biggest – sports law firm in Brazil. One of the biggest in South America. I worked there for 10 years. I was coordinating the sports department there. That helped me get in touch with a lot of people that I wouldn’t normally get in touch with.”
By 2010, he said he wanted to be “on the other side of the table.” He loved being a sports lawyer, but he wanted to do something new. So, he got his MBA in sports management and switched his career path.
He came to MLS from Grêmio Osasco Audax Esporte Clube in Brazil, where he was the sporting director. First, he joined Gregg Berhalter’s Columbus Crew staff in 2016 and eventually became the club’s head of player recruitment and the international relations manager.
“It’s totally different work, 100 percent,” Moreira said about transitioning from soccer in Brazil to MLS. “But, it’s really great. I think it’s really a challenge. Working with someone like Luiz, who has very good knowledge of all of those rules, I learned a lot from him. He’s a guy that knows really well how to manage that.”
Berhalter, who is now the head coach of the U.S. men’s national team, said Moreira’s personality played huge rule in his successful stint with Columbus. Berhalter said Moreira was in charge of the communication between players and the club.
He added he and Moreira stay in regular contact.
“Ricardo has a personality that’s relatable,” Berhalter said. “It’s very easy for him to talk to different types of people and people relate to him really well. When you’re relaying information about our club, when you’re relaying information about our culture and how we work, he was a guy that was easily able to connect with potential players.”
Muzzi said Moreira showed an aptitude for finding value while with Columbus. That’s a skill he rates highly – while Muzzi was with FC Dallas, he was also tasked with finding value in upcoming players with the potential for development.
“He was hired before I got here,” said Muzzi, who joined Orlando City in December.
With a laugh, Muzzi added, “I didn’t hire him, but if I was here, I would have hired him. It’s great that he was already here. I didn’t have to do anything.
“It’s a great relationship. I think he’s doing a fantastic job. I think the scouting will improve. I think right now, we’re still a little bit reactive instead of being proactive. It’s just the reality of we came in, there was a lot of change and we need to react. But, moving forward, we’re going to be a lot more proactive in how we do our scouting.”
O’Connor said he wasn’t involved with Moreira’s hire, but he’s glad Moreira is a part of the organization. Plus, he said it’s important Moreira comes out to training so often. The scouting director gets to see the level the team is training at and, because he has an understanding of what the current players can and can’t do, he can make informed decisions about the Lions’ needs.
“Having met Ricardo and having gotten to know him, I think we’re all really comfortable with how he operates and how professional he is,” O’Connor said.
“I think he’s been a really good appointment for us. I think his ability not just to look at the player, but to do background check is really important. I think for us, as the coach, I’ve said it a few times, we want good people as well as good players.”
Moreira said showing up at training is part of his job.
“Scouting doesn’t end at the airport,” he said. “We want to bring in the guy and you want to make sure that guy’s going to fit in the city, fit in the club and fit on the field as well.”
Moreira said he’s risen quickly in his career – something he doesn’t take for granted.
“I owe a lot of people for that,” he said. “For trusting me throughout these years involving football. In think, in the end, it comes to results, right? Thankfully, I was successful in the clubs that I’ve worked for and that helped me arrive here as the director of scouting.”
The work doesn’t end when the transfer window closes.
“When we bring a player, let’s say in January 2019, we already have an idea of what to expect from him in January 2020,” Moreira said. “We’re already thinking of the roster we’ll have next season. What moves are we going to make? What moves are we not going to make? It’s constant.”