Let’s get one thing straight: Jaime Moreno is not done. Yes, he announced that this will be his last season with D.C. United. And yes, his minutes and production—just one goal this season and only five starts—have diminished as his 36-year-old legs have slowly given way to time.
But Moreno is one of those special ones whom you “misunderestimate,” as someone once said, at your peril. Even if he no longer has that blinding first step that broke defenders’ ankles time and again or that assassin’s calm in the box that brought him an MLS record 132 goals (and counting), one can’t help but feel he could create a bit of magic at any moment. He won’t do it often, but an old dog never loses his old tricks.
Of course, this season in DC, there has been very little magic from anyone. And so the powers that be have begun searching for a new act.
The firing of coach Curt Onalfo last week marked a shift in United’s modus operandi—normally, coaches have been given time to build their own team; Onalfo is the first United coach to be fired midseason—and Moreno’s decision heralds an even more distinct break with the past. It is strange to contemplate the new United that considering the respect for tradition and history that has always pervaded MLS’ most decorated club.
But time moves on. You either move with it or you drop to the bottom of the standings.
And Moreno, after 15 seasons in MLS, has finally decided it is time for him to move.
WATCH: Moreno cheers on D.C. United
What he will leave behind when he goes is not the memory of an aging dynamo coming on in the second half, but the image of one of the subtlest magicians this league has ever seen—and will ever see. He had the talent to compete in any league in the world, but he chose to put it into effect here.
For some, a player is judged by his personal accomplishments. For others, his impact on the team’s accomplishments are paramount. Moreno is incomparable on both counts.
He is the leading goal-scorer in MLS history and is in the top five in assists and games played. He had a hand in all 12 major trophies United have won in their history, including four MLS Cups and one CONCACAF championship.
The one that stands out is the 1997 MLS Cup. On a rainy day at RFK Stadium, Moreno was a tour de force. He scored the opener in what turned out to be a 2-1 DC win over the Colorado Rapids. His smile standing on the podium with John Harkes, Marco Etcheverry and the rest of that juggernaut team reached all the way back to Bolivia.
Those were the good times. Those were Moreno’s times. It remains to be seen how United will emerge from the straits they are in now. They could resurrect things next season or they could go into a prolonged post-Moreno funk. Either way, Moreno’s impact will be felt.
Like I said, he is not done. He’s just leaving.