Editor's Note: As part of Major League’s Soccer’s 25th season celebration, over the coming weeks MLSsoccer.com will be featuring an interview with a player who made a lasting impact on the league and helped make MLS the force it is today. Check back every Monday for a new installment of MLS Legends.
Jaime Moreno was one of Major League Soccer’s first stars, a supremely prolific striker who attached his name to a raft of awards, records and most importantly of all, a haul of trophies that included four MLS Cups, four Supporters’ Shields, two U.S. Open Cups and one Concacaf Champions Cup.
A longtime Bolivian international who made two appearances for his country at 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States at the tender age of 20, the five-time MLS Best XI honoree landed at D.C. United midway through MLS’s inaugural 1996 season after a mostly frustrating stint at English side Middlesbrough, where he made history as the first of his nation to play in the Premier League.
Though he readily confesses that it wasn’t his plan to spend the rest of his career in MLS, Moreno flourished in the US capital, striking up a fruitful partnership with his friend and countryman Marco Etcheverry to build the league’s first dynasty. At one time MLS’s all-time leading goal scorer, Moreno remains one of only two players – alongside Landon Donovan – to notch more than 100 goals and 100 assists in his career, finishing with 133g/102a when he retired in 2010.
MLSsoccer.com recently caught up with him as he waited out the coronavirus shutdown at his home in Ashburn, Virginia in D.C.’s western suburbs with his wife Louise and their five children Laura, James, Fabiana, Danniela and Lilly.
MLSsoccer.com: Where are you and how have you been spending your time lately?
Jaime Moreno: I’ve been playing golf every day. [laughs]
MLSsoccer.com: Before all the shutdown happened, were you doing any coaching? [Moreno has previously coached in D.C. United’s academy and at local youth club McLean Youth Soccer]
Jaime Moreno: No, not right now.
MLSsoccer.com: Kevin Payne [D.C.’s first president] has said that United tried for months to get you to come to MLS when you were in England; they finally made the deal happen in the summer of 1996. What are your memories about how you wound up in MLS?
Jaime Moreno: I mean, I didn't know what was going on. I never knew that I was going to come to the MLS and so it happens — I saw the opportunity and just took it. But my expectation was never to stay in MLS for as long as I was. But at the end of the day I made a career, I made a living and I was grateful for what I achieved and all the things I did.
Jaime Moreno became the first Bolivian to play in England's Premier League with Middlesbrough prior to arriving in D.C. He briefly went back to the club on loan in the winter of 1998. | Reuters
MLSsoccer.com: What's your favorite memory from your MLS career?
Jaime Moreno: It’s got to be the first MLS Cup. That's going to be forever. And for us to win the MLS Cup the way that we did, how it happened, it’s going to be forever. So it’s got to be that one.
MLSsoccer.com: Most players maybe only reach a championship final like that once, and you got there so many times — you guys lifted a lot of trophies, especially in those first few years.
Jaime Moreno: Yeah, but that makes it the special one, because of the way that we did it, and because we're the first ones in MLS history, the first champions.
Jaime Moreno: Yeah, my regret is that I wish I did work differently [early in my career], the way I did when I was older. Because if I did work the way I worked later, I could’ve been playing in Europe again. But at the same time, I know I’m grateful, because I had great career in MLS.
MLSsoccer.com: Who do you think was the best player that you either played with or against in your career here?
Jaime Moreno: The best player I played with was Marco [Etcheverry], and also Christian Gomez. Those were great players, different style, but very good players and it was a privilege to play with them.
MLSsoccer.com: When you look at MLS today, what is the biggest change been in the league from from when you first came to the league to where it is today?
Jaime Moreno: To be honest, I wouldn’t know because I’m not involved and I don't know what's going on in the league. But the only thing I can say is that the league got better, the league got bigger. I think that was the goal of the league, so that it could grow. And we are the pioneers and worked so this could be bigger everywhere. I'm just glad that I was part of it.
MLSsoccer.com: You said you don't watch as much MLS now, but you think if you came today to D.C. that you could still have the same career in these times?
Jaime Moreno: I mean, I don’t think anybody could know that, I don’t think anybody could say anything about it. The only thing I can say is, I knew my potential and I knew what I was capable of doing. Who knows? You couldn't know, you couldn't say.
Jaime Moreno, left, and D.C. United became the only MLS team in history to win the Inter-American Cup in 1998 over Brazil's Vasco da Gama | Reuters
MLSsoccer.com: When you first came here in 1996, did you ever think that the league would survive and that it would get to where it is today?
Jaime Moreno: It’s very hard to think about that, you’re talking about 24 years ago — but it’s amazing to see where the league is right now, and I’m just happy to be part of the people that were involved with that generation at that time.
MLSsoccer.com: Did you ever think that the league would shut down, that you would have to go somewhere else if it didn't survive?
Jaime Moreno: At one time I did, because there was a point [in the 1990s] where we were going to go on strike, and [in 2001] it was very close to ending, the league was going to disappear … everybody knows that [Phil] Anschutz saved the league.
MLSsoccer.com: Do you like Audi Field, or do you prefer RFK [Stadium, United’s former home]?
Jaime Moreno: Oh, Audi Field is awesome. I think it would be better if I was there. [laughs] No, but it's good … that stadium is beautiful, the fans are enjoying it.