WASHINGTON — This week, D.C. United team captain Jaime Moreno announced that he will leave MLS at the close of the season, bringing down the curtain on one of the league’s truly epic careers and signaling the end of an era for the capital club. The announcement adds another sad milestone in a year of great upheaval for the Red-and-Black.
The United legend is expected to return to his hometown, Santa Cruz, Bolivia, in the winter to rejoin Club Blooming, his first professional side, for a victory lap or two before he hangs them up for good. He has a standing offer to join the United organization in a youth-coaching position or perhaps some other role.
But while he sounds likely to take up that opportunity eventually, the tone of Thursday’s announcement was altered by the disclosure that the decision was not exactly mutual.
“They knew I wanted to play another year, but this is a business,” Moreno told reporters after Friday morning’s training session. "Unfortunately, the team didn't do good this year, so I guess they are looking at better options than me."
Stuck at the foot of the standings and riddled with shortcomings in several areas, United are bracing for a major overhaul, which began with the firing of coach Curt Onalfo a little more than a week ago. With that in mind, the front office decided to turn the page on their legendary striker’s 15-year stint at D.C.
“Jaime leaving is the last real link to the past,” said United president Kevin Payne. “We need players to step up and write a new history. Clearly, we need some pieces. Someone has to answer the call of scoring goals. Whether that's a player that is on the team now or a player we go out and find, that remains to be seen.”
Interestingly enough, Moreno’s departure was finalized in the days leading up to United’s match against FC Dallas. FCD striker Jeff Cunningham has quietly been stalking Moreno’s all-time MLS scoring record of 132 career goals. Cunningham now stands on 127 strikes and will look to add to that total against the star-crossed D.C. defense at RFK Stadium on Saturday night.
Moreno says he holds no strong attachment to that aspect of his glittering career, however, and he’s prepared to give Cunningham his due if the Jamaican striker overtakes his mark.
“To be honest, it was never really my concern," Moreno said. "If Jeff is catching up on me, it’s because he worked hard and he’s done the right things. So if he catches me or he passes me, I will congratulate him because he’s done so well in this league and his career.”
With differing personalities and styles, the two veterans have taken contrasting roads to greatness. A nomad who plied his trade for four MLS clubs, Cunningham maintained his speed over the years while Moreno grew into a trickier, more cerebral player with age and stayed in one place for most his career.
With every United match now representing a countdown to the end of his time with the club, Moreno remains hopeful that he is given a chance to lift his team out of the doldrums in their final 11 games—starting with Dallas, who beat United 1-0 in May thanks to a late Cunningham strike.
“He’s a good player, very skilful, very quick,” said Moreno of Cunningham. “We know that tomorrow it’s going to be a tough game and you’ve got to watch him, because he’s got experience and he’s always a dangerous player. We’ve got to take care of him.”