As Reserve, Moreno Fuels Surge

Christian Gomez
United's Christian Gomez, right, battles New York's Youri Djorkaeff for the ball. Jaime Moreno set up Gomez's tiebreaking goal and added a score. (By Nick Wass -- Associated Press)
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 24, 2006

D.C. United celebrated its past and was finally able to feel a whole lot better about its present.

And in both cases, Jaime Moreno was in the center of things.

On an emotional night when the club honored its 1996 MLS championship team, Moreno, the only player remaining from that pioneering squad, inspired a second-half surge that propelled badly short-handed United to a wild, 4-3 victory over the New York Red Bulls before 21,727 at RFK Stadium.

Moreno -- excused from two practices last week and held out of the starting lineup for the first time this season in an attempt to reenergize him for the stretch run -- needed just three minutes to set up Christian Gomez's tiebreaking goal early in the second half.

Following United defender Facundo Erpen's ejection, Moreno made it 3-1 in the 73rd minute. Amado Guevara's second goal of the game cut the deficit with about eight minutes remaining before the Bolivian forward was credited with an assist on Matias Donnet's spectacular goal in the 89th.

Josmer Altidore, 16, scored during injury time for the Red Bulls, the final act in a vital late-season match that left United (15-4-10) with the Eastern Conference regular season title and New York (7-11-11) in desperate need of victories to reach the playoffs.

"Next week I will give them all three days off so they will all be playing like Jaime," Coach Peter Nowak said, grinning.

Moreno admitted he had not played well for several weeks and was one of the reasons for United's 1-3-5 rut. With time off, Moreno relaxed with his family, took to the golf course and reluctantly accepted his wife's gift of a day at the spa. ("I don't like that stuff," he said. "Things like that aren't usually for the guy, but I think it helped me.") Moreno, in his 10th season with United and 11th in the league, participated in the pregame ceremony along with 15 of his former teammates and his old coach, Bruce Arena, now in charge of the Red Bulls. But when the starters took the field, Moreno was not there.

With the match tied 1-1 in the 57th minute, however, Nowak sent him in.

"It was good what I did [earlier in the week] and I felt like my legs were fresh," Moreno said. "I think it showed in the game but I won't say anything until I'm in the final and my legs feel the same way."

In the 60th minute, Moreno slipped a gentle pass through to Gomez, who slid an angled shot under Tony Meola for his 11th goal of the year.

After Erpen was tossed for retaliating against John Wolyniec by stomping on his foot in clear view of referee Kevin Stott, Gomez threaded the ball to Ben Olsen, who sailed in alone before passing to his left for Moreno to finish for his 11th of the season.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company