FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - After a decorated career spanning three World Cups, 100 international appearances for the United States, the Olympics, two All-American selections, three foreign countries, and many, many goals, former New England Revolution striker Joe-Max Moore returns to Gillette Stadium on Saturday night.
Moore will receive gifts and plaudits from the Revolution organization and the United States national team prior to the Revolution-FC Dallas match. The former national team striker retired in January as the Revolution's all-time leading scorer with 177 points (41 goals and 35 assists).
"Joe-Max will always be the face of this franchise," said Revolution forward Taylor Twellman. "He was still the face of this franchise when he left for England."
Before he was the face of the Revolution, Moore was a young boy growing up in the shadows of the North American Soccer League. His father, Carl, owned a portion of the Tulsa Roughnecks. Soccer was in his blood from the beginning.
"I have known Joe personally for over 15 years, but I have known of him for even longer," said Kraft Soccer President Sunil Gulati. "A very close friend of mine played for the Tulsa Roughnecks of the NASL. In 1983 or 1984, when Joe was [12 or 13], I was out in Tulsa and my friend took me to Carl Moore's house. The house had a full-length field in the back, and my friend told me about Carl's young son Joe-Max. He said that he was a pretty good player. I didn't think anything of it at the time, but he turned out to be a great player."
After a standout high school career at Mission Viejo High School, Moore excelled at UCLA, earning two All-American nods and a spot on the 1992 Olympic team in Barcelona alongside future national team stars Claudio Reyna, Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Cobi Jones and MetroStars general manager Alexi Lalas, among others.
The Olympic berth was the start of a prolific international career. Selected for the World Cup in 1994, 1998, and 2002, Moore amassed 100 caps for the United States, tallying 24 goals for his country, including a pair against Jamaica at Gillette Stadium to seal qualification for the 2002 World Cup.
"Joe-Max was one of the greatest U.S. national team strikers of all time," said Twellman. "I idolized him growing up."
After successful stints with Saarbreucken and Nurnberg in Germany, Moore returned on July 24, 1996 to sign with MLS. The Revolution, then under the guidance of former Irish international Frank Stapleton, used an allocation to acquire the services of Moore, a player familiar to dedicated U.S. soccer observers but unknown to the general public.
"I was looking to help the league get started," said Moore. "Tab [Ramos], Alexi [Lalas], and Marcelo [Balboa] had already come home. I thought it was important to come back to help raise the level of the game for the fans.
"When he came to the Revolution in 1996, he uplifted everyone," said former Revolution technical director Joe Cummings. "He was exactly what we needed."
It was the start of a profitable relationship. As coaches would come and go, Moore would remain the ever-present face of the franchise, drawing fans from across New England with his unique combination of skill, finishing, and graft on the forward line. He was named team MVP in 1996 and 1999.
"When I was still coaching youth teams, I brought them to the games see to the Revolution," said Cummings. "But I made them watch him as a player."
Success with the Revolution earned Moore a free transfer to English Premiership side Everton after the 1999 season. Moore signed a four-year deal with the Toffees, scoring 10 goals in 64 appearances. In December 2002, Moore's work permit was not renewed, paving the way for a return to MLS.
"I was impressed with the level of the league when I came back, with the overall skill level and the competition for spots," said Moore. "In the first year or so, it was a struggle to put 13 or 14 good players on the field."
"I was disappointed that we didn't get to see our partnership grow because both he and I were injured," said Twellman. "It was a pleasure to play with him. He's a good friend and a great guy."
Moore's return never lived up to lofty expectations, as a series of injuries left the veteran struggling to make the squad regularly. During his final two seasons, Moore featured in 19 matches, scoring four goals and adding nine assists.
"Obviously, his last spell here wasn't what he wanted," said Revolution head coach Steve Nicol. "Injuries had a lot to do with it. [However], he's the type of person who still makes an impact on a squad when he's not fit with his personality and his professionalism. He always encouraged the guys, mostly the young guys, but he helped older guys along too."
"I really enjoyed my time with the Revs," said Moore. "We had our ups and downs. I struggled with injuries. But the people and the fans involved were always great.
"In both stints with the Revolution, practice in and practice out, day in and day out, he played with persistence," said Cummings. "The irony is that may be the reason why he didn't play longer."
After intensive rehabilitation from a serious knee injury last season, Moore aggravated the injury in a practice collision in January. Surgery was performed on his right medial collateral ligament (MCL), forcing Moore to retire on January 27.
"I was concerned about being able to kick the ball to my son without pain," said Moore. "The doctors weren't sure that I'd be able to do that if I injured it again. I couldn't jeopardize playing soccer with my son."
In retirement, Moore dabbles in business and real estate ventures and watches his former team.
"I watch as many games as I can," said Moore. "It's great to see the team doing so well. It's a different feeling to watch the games, to see your friends out there playing. I miss going out to training, being in the locker room with the guys, and going out there and playing."
With his career now concluded, the principle elements will reassemble on Saturday. The U.S. national team will play Jamaica at Gillette Stadium in the Gold Cup quarterfinals in the afternoon. The Revolution will play later that night against FC Dallas. And family, friends, teammates, and fans will gather to pay tribute to a glittering career.
"I would have never guessed that my career would have worked out this way growing up on a farm in Oklahoma," said Moore. "It's been a dream career."
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.