WASHINGTON – Most All-Star selections greet the honor with a similar mix of elation and satisfaction. But for Jaime Moreno, a straightforward veteran whose relentless pursuit of goals and trophies is unparalleled in MLS history, this year’s honor is a bit more complicated.
“It’s different because you go to the All-Star Games, usually, when you do well through half of the season,” said the D.C. United striker, one of Commissioner Don Garber’s two picks for the squad that will face Manchester United in Houston next week. "So this is more like an appreciation for what I’ve done in the league – and I do appreciate that they’re taking me, because they know I’m close to retired.
“So it’s great to be recognized – I never planned it, I never thought it was going to happen, but I’m thankful for that.”
Moreno is not one to linger too long on symbolic gestures, however – he’d prefer to earn his spot on merit. The league’s all-time leading scorer and his teammates are suffering through one of the toughest seasons in their storied club’s history, and he has chafed against the limitations imposed by advancing age and a more modest role in this year’s rebuilding team.
The 36-year-old Bolivian remains exquisitely cultured and creative with the ball at his feet, but has become something of a role player in comparison to his dominant prime. Moreno leads DC in league matches played, but has started only five of those, with head coach Curt Onalfo often preferring to use him as a catalyst off the bench.
“I felt that games that I’ve come on, I’ve changed the game, in different ways,” Moreno said Tuesday. “But at the same time, they haven’t been good enough. One person can’t do everything. We all know that. I’m just trying to give that little injection to the team when I come on, and I feel that I have done that a little bit, even though it’s not [my best]. I’m just not happy, more with myself.”
The passage of time has changed his playing style and his contributions, but it’s done nothing to temper the smoldering competitiveness that helped him hunt down four MLS Cup titles and a host of other awards.
Limited playing time has not been an easy pill to swallow for “The Godfather of Goals,” but he continues to impress his teammates with his quiet leadership and professionalism.
“Obviously it’s been tough for him this year, but he’s still magic, man,” teammate Santino Quaranta said. “He’s done pretty good, I think better than I would’ve done. But you can’t say unless you’re in the situation. I’m sure he feels it, too, after he plays a game, at his age. But for me he’s been very good about it. He’s still been a captain. He’s helping the younger guys.”
Some interpreted the commissioner’s choice as a sign of Moreno’s impending retirement, but United’s legend says that he has yet to make that call.
“No, I haven’t made a decision yet,” he said. “It’s something that I never thought was going to happen this year – that I wasn’t going to get enough minutes and I wasn’t going to play enough games. It’s not the way I pictured me retiring.
“When you’re at the end of your career you don’t think of playing almost every game, but at least get involved more, and unfortunately I don’t feel like I have. Especially when the season is not going the right way, everything just kind of gets worse. But at the end of the day, the team is more important than what my decision is going to be at the end of the season.”