Jaime Moreno

Looking Back: Jaime Moreno

the feints, the backheels and the cuts that corkscrew defenders into the ground -- has a dark side to it. By 1999, it was evident that the only way to stop him was to repeatedly hack him, and it became open season on Moreno. Between 1999 and 2001, he was fouled 242 times in 73 games.

Moreno's productivity dropped as he struggled to recover from the numerous off-season operations he underwent to repair the damage inflicted upon him. In 40 games from 2001 to 2002, he scored only 12 goals and 10 assists. His penalty kicks, once a guaranteed goal, now lacked power and were easily saved. You could see it in his stride that he wasn't the same player, and after the 2002 season, he was traded to the MetroStars.

Moreno's lone season in New Jersey was the worst of his career. Herniated disks in his back restricted him to just two goals in 11 games, and the only time he looked like himself was, ironically, on his return to RFK Stadium on July 5, when he eluded a defender and buried the ball inside the far post.

Following another operation, the MetroStars released Moreno. It was believed that at the age of 30, his career was over. But he worked himself back into shape with the help of former Redskins linebacker Eddie Mason, and United offered him a tryout.

After Diaz Arce and Lassiter had had less than stellar second terms with United in 2000 and 2002, there was considerable skepticism regarding taking a chance on Moreno. But reports out of preseason were encouraging and Moreno signed a contract on the eve of the season opener.

Any doubts about Moreno's fitness were erased 12 minutes into the season. Moreno headed home an Earnie Stewart free kick to score United's first goal of 2004. In the 39th minute he set up Alecko Eskandarian for the eventual game-winner. While the day was supposed to have been about the debut of Freddy Adu, the real story was the sight of Moreno running at defenders, dancing on the ball and partying like it was 1999.

Moreno appeared in 27 games in 2004, scoring seven goals and a league-leading 14 assists as he led United to their fourth MLS Cup. He was also a finalist for the MVP and Comeback Player of the Year Awards, and for some inexplicable reason, failed to win either.

Following the departure of Ryan Nelsen, Jaime Moreno was named the fourth captain in D.C. United's history. On Aug. 31, he scored his 89th regular season goal to move past Lassiter, his former teammate, into second place on the league's all-time goal scorers' list. As of this writing, he has 13 goals this season, his highest total since 1998, and shows no sign of slowing down.

David Lifton is a contributor to dcunited.com. He is a member of the Screaming Eagles and longtime supporter of D.C. United.