D.C. United veteran Jaime Moreno hopes for one last run
For a moment, very late in the game against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday night, the aging D.C. United striker hovered a few yards from the goal. A centering pass, a laser cross -- any kind of ricochet, really -- could make him feel young again.
Before Donovan scored a golden goal last month and became America's favorite futbol player, before a league's misguided dalliance with David Beckham and a child prodigy from Montgomery County named Freddy Adu, there was Jaime.
There was always Jaime.
"I feel lucky to have been part of his career," said Ben Olsen, Moreno's D.C. United teammate for 11 years and now an assistant coach. "I think a lot of players feel that way. Bottom line, he's probably the best player this league has ever seen."
Moreno has scored more goals than anyone in MLS history. He is the only player to take part in every season since the league's inception 15 seasons ago. It's why a reserve on a last-place team was named to next Wednesday's All-Star Game in Houston.
People would rather see the legend than the prodigies, especially before they say goodbye.
"One of my reasons I still think about playing one more year is because I don't want to go like this," said Moreno on Wednesday afternoon underneath a makeshift tent in Sterling. "You know, you want to go out through the big doors."
He wiped a few beads of sweat from his brow as his wife, Louise, took a break from signing up campers for Moreno's second annual sports camp. "It's been tough this year for him," she said, knowingly. "Jaime is used to playing and winning so much."
The ball control and vision remain. But the minutes and the moments he embarrassed world-class defenders, dribbling through their legs and meeting the ball behind them, are now spare. Like most pro teams in the District these days, United is in the midst of its own rebuild, looking for its next young star, its next Stephen Strasburg or John Wall, to fix what the decision-makers broke.
In what appears his last season in Washington, Moreno is finding out what Willie Mays found after he fell down in the outfield at the end of his career, the day the Say Hey Kid said, "Growing old is just a helpless hurt."
Limbs and cartilage have expiration dates. The sublimely gifted forward from yesteryear is now 36, enduring a franchise's search for the next one, someone like the player who set the standard in the mid-1990s, Jaime Moreno.