To new D.C. United coach, Jaime Moreno is "the brains of our attack"
Friday, March 26, 2010
This was to be the year that Jaime Moreno entered the twilight of his brilliant career and, at age 36, make the reluctant but inevitable transition to a strictly supporting role.
He is MLS's scoring king with more years of league service than almost all other D.C. United midfielders and forwards combined. But over the winter, in the aftermath of another disappointing season, United jettisoned three veteran attackers and looked to invigorate the roster with younger, hungrier players. Even if he were to return, Moreno was uncertain about his place in the rebuilding movement.
With United's opener at Kansas City just a day away, however, Moreno remains at the forefront and, according to new Coach Curt Onalfo, "is the brains of our attack."
Any doubts about Moreno's capability were put to rest in the final stage of preseason. He scored against Mexican club Santos Laguna during a 3-2 victory and had all five United goals in three wins at the Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston, S.C.
"My friend told me he thinks an alien came and took over my body," Moreno said in his typically dry tone. "When you feel good and have the freedom on the field and the good support from your teammates, it makes it easier."
Moreno tops the league scoring charts with 131 regular season goals and is fourth in assists with 102. When he steps onto the field Saturday night against the Wizards, he will become the only player to appear in a match in every MLS season.
Moreno had company until this winter, when Jesse Marsch retired and Steve Ralston became a player-coach for second-division St. Louis. Five other active players participated in the league's inaugural season in 1996 -- San Jose's Ramiro Corrales, Chivas USA's Zach Thornton, Columbus's Frankie Hejduk, Los Angeles' Eddie Lewis and Chicago's Brian McBride -- but all spent portions of their career in foreign leagues.
Moreno has been employed by United for all but one season, an injury-shortened campaign with New York in 2003. Since returning to Washington the following year for United's fourth MLS Cup title, he has averaged 10 goals and more than eight assists.
Last season, despite contributing nine goals to rank second on the club, he showed signs of decline and seemed, at times, uninspired in then-coach Tom Soehn's system. Although he sat out just six league matches -- one because of a red card suspension -- he started in only 11 and played the fewest minutes in six years.
"Things were up in the air this winter," he said. "I knew there were going to be some changes, so I was wondering what would happen and what I would do."
Upon his hiring, Onalfo told Moreno that he was "going to be a big part of our success. I wasn't sure if it was going to be 90 minutes or 60 minutes or 30 minutes [per game]. We had to wait until preseason came about, but he has come in with a fresh attitude and great charisma."
Others have marveled about Moreno's resurgence.