Thursday, October 28, 2010

One More Tribute for Jaime Moreno

By Frank Giase, The Star-Ledger:

"Pick any big name from the 15-year history of Major League Soccer. Now think of who has meant the most to the league.  Carlos Valderrama? Marco Etcheverry? Landon Donovan? Nope. Not even close.

The most important player in the history of the league played his final game Saturday night, and if every player who comes along now doesn’t pay respect toward the trail blazed by Jaime Moreno, then he is not seeing the big picture.

Moreno was there from the start, a 22-year-old kid who was struggling to get playing time at Middlesbrough and who signed with D.C. United in 1996, Major League Soccer’s inaugural season. Moreno, playing for coach Bruce Arena, teammed with Etcheverry, John Harkes, Jeff Agoos, Raul Diaz Arce and Eddie Pope and D.C. United immediately become the most dominant team in the league. D.C. United, in their black kit, was the villain every other team geared up to knock off, a team that could play with finesse or physicality — and beat you either way.

D.C. appeared in the first four MLS Cups, winning three. Eventually, the stars moved on or retired, except for Moreno, who continued to score goals and win games.

Except for the 2003 season, when he played 11 games with the MetroStars in an injury-filled season, he spent his entire career in Washington. And in 2004, when he went back to D.C., he had a career-high 14 assists when the team won its fourth MLS Cup.

He will retire as the league’s all-time leading scorer with 133 goals, although FC Dallas’ Jeff Cunningham, with 132, will surpass him next season. And his 102 career assists make him the only person in league history with triple digits in both categories. But that’s just the statistical side of it.

“There’s been very few people, perhaps none other, who have done as well for our league and for the sport of soccer in our country,” MLS commissioner Don Garber told the RFK Stadium crowd Saturday night.

As the 36-year-old Moreno walked off the field to a standing ovation with eight minutes to play, Toronto’s Dwayne De Rosario, who won MLS Cups with Houston in 2006 and 2007, embraced him.

“I just thanked him for what he’s done in this league,” De Rosario said. “Guys like that put the league on the map. Guys like that made players from Europe and players from all over the world be attracted to this league.”

MLS is different now. No player of Moreno’s talents will likely spend a 15-year career here, although we can hope the league will become strong enough in the future for that to happen.

And if it does, those players can thank those who helped build the league and were there through the tough times, and they should begin with Jaime Moreno."