MLS will bid a fond farewell to D.C. United legend Jaime Moreno this weekend. And no one will be fonder of saying adiós than the many defenders he has terrorized during his 15-year career.
“I would definitely say that,” veteran Kansas City Wizards defender Jimmy Conrad told MLSsoccer.com this week. He laughed and added, “I’m particularly happy he’s going because he’s had my number over the years.”
WATCH: Moreno's trophy case
Conrad is not alone. Moreno has had the number of just about every MLS defender at one point or another. The Bolivian striker, after all, has scored 132 goals in his career (and counting?), many of which he celebrated while a poor, flummoxed defender shook his head and wondered where it all went wrong.
“He was so quick,” said New York Red Bulls center back Mike Petke, who is retiring himself after 12 years in the league. “But he seemed even faster with the ball at his feet. It was deceiving. You’d be tracking his run [off the ball], feeling good about yourself, then he’d get the ball and he’d actually pick up speed. He was gone!”
Moreno arrived at United in 1996 as a speed-demon type, fleet enough to run in behind the defense and latch onto a through-ball from Marco Etcheverry or some other creative midfielder. But over time, his speed became secondary to his footskills on the ball, which proved every defender’s nightmare.
“In ’04, he got the ball at midfield and turned,” Conrad recalled. “I backed off and he kept coming at me. I thought he’d go to his right, which was his better foot, but he went to his left and buried his shot. We lost 1-0. Not a great moment for yours truly.”
Petke, who was actually traded to United in exchange for Moreno in 2003, remembers a similar play on Moreno's returned to RFK Stadium as a member of the MetroStars.
“We kept hearing how he had a bad back and that his career might be over,” Petke recalled. “But he played and he got the ball about 35 yards out. I gave him too much room and he got a head of steam. Man, it was all over. He went to his right and scored, and everyone there knew: Jaime was back!”
WATCH: Moreno discusses back injury
But despite all the times Moreno made them “feel clueless,” as San Jose defender Chris Leitch put it recently, it is probably the defenders who have the most respect for the most consistently threatening striker MLS has ever seen.
“He’s a legend, period,” Petke said. “A highlight reel.”
“He's one of the greats,” Leitch said. “MLS is going to miss him. I'm going to miss him because he's a former teammate of mine, but I'm also not going to miss him because I don't want to mark him anymore.”
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