Feature: Jaime Moreno
Jaime Moreno first joined D.C. United in MLS’ inaugural season. After making history as the first Bolivian to play in the English Premier League, appearing 20 times for Middlesbrough, Moreno signed with the Black-and-Red on July 29, 1996.
“I saw Jaime play in Dallas with Bolivia, with the national team,” said former D.C. United President and CEO Kevin Payne. “And then he played a match here at RFK with Bolivia against the U.S., and you could tell he was a pretty special player.”
Moreno didn’t waste any time, helping United win the League’s first MLS Cup. The forward went on to score 16 goals in the 1997 season, seeing the Black-and-Red to another MLS Cup and earning himself MLS Best XI and MLS Cup MVP.
“He is one of the very few players, in my recollection, in the history of the League who came in the summer and had a big impact from the moment he arrived,” said Payne. “Really, he was the best forward in the League from the time he got here.”
And the stats prove it. In 1998, Moreno netted an impressive 16 goals and assisted on 11. Continuing into 1999, Moreno helped United to a third MLS Cup, while earning another MLS Best XI selection. After a short stint with the New York Metrostars, Moreno returned to D.C. in 2004, another MLS Cup-winning year for the Black-and-Red and another year on the MLS Best XI list. After the 2005 season, the proven talent was namedto both that season’s Best XI as well as the MLS All-Time Best XI. At the conclusion of his career in 2010, Moreno had been named to the MLS Best XI five times, won four MLS Cups and earned one MLS Cup MVP honor.
“I thought Jaime would be a great player in MLS,” said former United and current LA Galaxy Head Coach Bruce Arena. “I never imaged he would turn out to be the player he turned out to be.”
“It was just such a joy to be next to him on the field,” said D.C. United Head Coach Ben Olsen. “You never knew what he was going to pull off. I think our fans were treated to one of the best players this league’s ever seen, and I was treated to one of the best players that I’ve ever played with.”
“Today, if you asked most people who follow Major League Soccer, I think they would say Jaime Moreno and Marco Etcheverry are among the top five players in the history of the League. We are all very fortunate that they chose to play in MLS,” explained Arena.
Moreno’s prowess and domination can be attributed to one thing, according to former teammate Eddie Pope—“his will to win.” Another former teammate and current D.C. United standout Chris Pontius said of Moreno, “He was a leader, and more importantly, he was a winner.”
Admiration and awe were clear in everyone’s voice, but that sentiment was most prevalent when listening to Pope.
“When he would run, he was so fluid and so smooth with the ball; it just looked like he was gliding,” Pope recalled. “Good things just seemed to always happen when Jaime had the ball,” he added.
It bears noting that no one mentioned a stellar goal they remembered Moreno scoring, nordid they pick a specific statistic to explain his greatness. No, Jaime Moreno is more than numbers on a piece of paper, and Payne paints the picture best.
“It was the style and grace Jaime brought to the field. He has really unique abilities. There weren’t too many players in the world that could do the kinds of things that he did on a regular basis. Almost every game that Jaime played for us, he did something at some point in the game that you just said, ‘Wow!’”
Jaime Moreno hid things from Thomas Rongen, ran Richie Williams over in a golf cart, almost broke Payne’s window and played countless pranks on rookies.
“He also was brutal to Thomas Rongen,” recalled Payne, smiling as the memories began to flood in. “Jaime would steal his stuff all the time on the road and in airports, and Thomas would spend half of a road trip looking for his briefcase or his wallet or his car keys.”
Payne told two more stories that both highlight Moreno’s light-hearted personality and that maybe golf wasn’t for him. Two days before United visited New York, Moreno ran Richie Williams over with a golf cart while the two were enjoying a day on the course, opening up a gash over his eye which needed stitches. Williams scored against New York, and during the celebration, teammate Mario Gori jumped on the back of Jeff Agoos, whose head hit Williams above the other eye—Williams left New York with stitches above both eyes.
But these antics didn’t surprise Payne, having been introduced to Jaime via a golf ball hitting his office window, courtesy of Moreno’s pitching wedge. Pope spoke to his “prankster” nature as well, remembering he would play “jokes on everybody whenever he got the chance.”
All jokes aside, Jaime Moreno belongs in D.C. United’s Hall of Tradition as one of the best to ever play in MLS.
“He graced this League for the 14-15 years that he was in it,” said Payne.
“Jaime stood on his own,” added Arena. “I think he was one of the greatest attacking players in the history of the League.”