Moreno's Final Game With Bolivia Is a Loss
Thursday, October 23, 2008
For his final appearance with the Bolivian national team, Jaime Moreno might have chosen to play in his home town of Santa Cruz or maybe in La Paz, the mountain-high capital where, more than a dozen years ago, his generation lifted Bolivia to unmatched heights in its unglamorous soccer history.
But all things considered, RFK Stadium served as a suitable backdrop last night for the forward's farewell to the international game after 17 years, an 18-minute effort during a 2-0 exhibition loss to El Salvador in front of an estimated 12,000 spectators.
It was there in 1996, at age 22, Moreno accelerated from the U.S. defense to score the first goal in a 2-0 Bolivia victory -- a spectacle that captured the attention of D.C. United officials in urgent need of attacking help in their inaugural MLS season. It was there, over 12 of the next 13 summers, he scored many of his MLS record-setting 122 goals, guided United to four league championships, as well as several tournament titles, and became the face of a blossoming pro team.
Other than perhaps a few Washington Senators in the 1960s, no athlete has played more games in RFK's 47-year history.
"It was pretty emotional," said Moreno, who will continue to play for United. "I had a lot of thoughts in me when I was walking off the field, thinking that was it, that's my last game, that's the last time I wear my green jersey."
Moreno, 34, was the youngest member of Bolivia's 1994 World Cup squad and served regularly for many more years. After fading from the scene early this decade, Coach Erwin "Platini" Sánchez, a former teammate, brought him back for periodic duty.
Despite age and injuries, Moreno has been United's most valuable player this season with 10 goals and 10 assists. His playing time last night was minimized to avoid aggravating a knee ailment and to ensure his fitness for Sunday's regular season finale at Columbus.
For El Salvador, the match marked a fourth appearance at RFK this year after facing Anguilla, Guatemala, and Trinidad and Tobago. For its Washington-based supporters, it was an opportunity to salute a team that has secured passage to the final round of 2010 World Cup qualifying next year.
The Salvadorans had a man advantage last night after the 33rd-minute ejection of Bolivian goalkeeper Carlos Arias, who upended Eliseo Quintanilla just outside the penalty area. Quintanilla, a former United forward, struck eight minutes later with a left-footed, 25-yard shot that streaked beyond replacement Sergio Galarza's reach and into the far upper corner.
Moreno entered in the 72nd minute and nearly tied it in the 88th on a header before Osael Romero scored from 30 yards to seal the outcome.
"It would have been better if we had gotten a better result," Moreno said. "It's definitely a sad moment, but I made a decision. . . . It's never easy when you get older, so it was a good time to say 'bye to the national team right here, right in my house."
Beckham, AC Milan Talking
David Beckham's possible jump to AC Milan could be more than just a temporary deal. He needs to stay competitive to keep his spot on the England team, and the loan would come with MLS in its offseason.
AC Milan Vice President Adriano Galliani said yesterday a deal is close. Beckham, 33, would join the Italian club in January and play in Serie A for a few months before returning to Los Angeles.
Milan could consider buying out the remainder of Beckham's five-year contract with the Galaxy, for whom his appearances and performances have been inconsistent.
For the second straight year, Los Angeles failed to make it to the MLS playoffs.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber confirmed the talks of Beckham joining AC Milan, but stressed that Beckham will be playing for the Galaxy at the start of the 2009 season.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.