Top 50 MLS Cup Moments: #25 Blonde Bombshell
|D.C. United 2||Colorado 1|
|Did You Know?|
|In 1997 Jaime Moreno led the league in goals scored with 16 tallies in 20 matches, also earning Best XI honors. The 16 goals represent a career high, which he also matched in 1998 and 2005. Shortly after MLS Cup '97 he joined Middlesbrough on loan in England.|
#25. Blonde Bombshell (1997)
In their sophomore season, D.C. United were a freight train that couldn’t be stopped.
A year after winning the inaugural MLS Cup, Bruce Arena’s gang proved their title was no fluke, unleashing an offensive assault on the young league. Paced by Jaime Moreno and Raúl Díaz Arce – who finished No. 1 and No. 2 on the league goal-scoring charts with 16 and 15 goals, respectively – United scored 70 goals over the 32-game season, a 2.19 goals-per-game mark that has only been bested twice in league history.
D.C. finished atop the overall league table to win their first Supporters’ Shield and came within a rare Díaz Arce miss in a PK shootout from retaining their US Open Cup title.
With Moreno and Díaz Arce helping United run the table through the playoffs, it was almost a foregone conclusion that D.C. would hoist another Cup, especially with the final being held in the friendly confines of RFK Stadium.
But fate seemed to be a little too cooperative at first. Just like 12 months earlier, a steady, chilly rain played havoc with the pitch. And just like in ’96, the bounces just weren’t going United’s way despite controlling possession early against the Rapids.
Tonny Sanneh couldn’t put an easy chance on frame. Richie Williams had a sure header swallowed by Marcus Hahnemann. Moreno’s empty-net look was cleared at the last minute by Colorado’s Chris Martinez.
United weren’t about to give up. They were a confident team in full control.
“Our team never doubted ourselves for a second,” Sanneh remembers. “If we were healthy, we were walking through the MLS season that year.”
In the 37th minute, Sanneh & Co. showed off their dazzling attack with a fantastic team goal. David Vaudreuil made a pretty flick to Sanneh at the midfield stripe. The US international then raced down the right side with room to work. Near the top corner of the 18, he crossed the ball to Díaz Arce, who was set up to drill it home from close range.
As the ball came to him, the Salvadoran sensation wound up and surprised nearly everyone in the stadium by dummying over the ball and leaving it for Moreno on the left side of the area.
“I think he realized I was behind him,” recalls Moreno, “and as a forward, you’ve got to be alert for anything that happens.”
What came next was a signature move that MLS fans would get used to over the next decade-and-a-half. Moreno took his time, danced to his right and uncorked a short line drive that split two Rapids defenders and rolled just under Hahnemann’s grasp.
It may not have been Moreno’s exact intent, but he wasn’t complaining at the time.
“I kind of mishit it, but sometimes you’re meaning to do other things and they don’t go in,” he recalls. “You take anything in the final.”
Indeed, it was the crucial goal that got United going in that game. Sanneh added what ended up being the winner in the 68th minute with a powerful header off John Harkes’ cross and D.C. held on for a 2-1 win in front of 57,431 in their home stadium.
To this day, it remains the only time in league history that a team has hoisted MLS Cup in their home venue. And as far as the legend of Jaime Moreno went, he was just getting started.
“The atmosphere was amazing and there are things you never forget,” says Moreno. “[It was] a great moment: winning at home and with your own fans and your family. It was a dream come true.”