Santino Quaranta, D.C. United
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Capital Construction: Stepping up in DC

WASHINGTON – From field level to mezzanine and upper deck, tears were flowing in every sector of RFK Stadium as Jaime Moreno concluded his D.C. United career last weekend. The raw heartache surprised even the man at the center of the action.

“I never thought it was going to be this hard,” a gutted Moreno said after his final game. “But I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest. I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a family, because this is pretty devastating.”

The sense of loss ran both ways, enveloping a United locker room which has hardly known a time without the Bolivian. Much like his calming influence on the ball during games, Moreno offered a reassuring presence around the clubhouse and his teammates have finally began to confront life without him this week.

“It’s kind of surreal,” goalkeeper Troy Perkins said. “You thought he was going to play forever. So now you know you’re coming back in a couple days and he’s not going to be here. There’s going to be a void to fill both on the field and off the field.”

It probably wasn’t part of their original plan at the year’s outset, but United nonetheless fielded one of the league’s youngest teams over the course of 2010. That could pay dividends next season, though it’s maddeningly difficult to be sure – a case in point being the injury struggles of last year’s rookie class.

“Some young guys had to step up in some positions that they normally wouldn’t have in a regular season,” holding midfielder Clyde Simms said on Tuesday. “So that was tough for them. It was a learning process for them and you’re going to lose some games in that process. But hopefully we’ll be stronger for it next year.

“I’m sure they’ll look to add some more pieces to the puzzle, but we’ve just got to concentrate on ourselves and make sure we’re ready to go come preseason.”

With several more faces expected to depart the club in the coming months, there are actually not all that many DC veterans positioned to take up the onus of leadership next season. A 10-year MLS veteran at the age of 26, Santino Quaranta is the leading contender to succeed his friend Moreno as United captain.

“I am,” Quaranta said on Saturday when asked about taking over from Moreno. “I think living under his legacy and doing what he’s taught me has been priceless for me as a person. If I can just relay that to the guys and have that type of attitude, then I think I am ready to embrace these guys and I think they’re ready to embrace me.”

Simms should also play a more visible role once he returns to full speed early next year (he travels to the Muschaweck clinic in Munich, Germany, this week for sports hernia surgery on Friday). In any case, such decisions will be left for United’s next coach, who is yet to be selected – and the club has already made no secret of the fact that other commanding presences may be required.

“We need a different pulse in a lot of ways on this team,” Olsen said. “With a guy like Jaime leaving now, it’s even more crucial to get some leaders here that are going to put their stamp on this team.”

Several players echoed those observations, suggesting that something else is needed to turn the current United roster into more than the sum of its parts.

“Absolutely,” Devon McTavish said. “We have some talent here, it’s just a matter of people starting to step up and play to their capability. I think you saw Tino put on that captain’s armband the latter half of the season and do a good job with it.

“He’s been around here a long time yet he’s so young, so I’m sure they’ll go out looking for guys, to try to get experienced players with a proven leadership record and a proven winning record. That’s certainly what we need.”

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