CARSON, Calif. – Bruce Arena has coached many of the country's and a few of the world's best players during his time as US national team coach and stints in charge of D.C. United, the New York Red Bulls and now the LA Galaxy.
He says he'd put Jaime Moreno at the top of the list.
Arena, who’ll take part in Saturday afternoon's ceremony inducting Moreno into D.C. United's Hall of Tradition before the Galaxy and United square off (4 pm ET; UniMas), calls the Bolivian forward “a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, for sure.”
“Jaime came into the league [in 1996] at 19 years old, was probably the fastest player in the league, technically as good as anyone in the league, and he scored goals,” said Arena, who guided D.C. United to MLS Cup titles in 1996 and 1997 and a title-game appearance in 1998. “He had the whole package. He really did. For a number of years, he was just a dominant player in MLS.
“I've coached some good players, and he's as good a player as I've coached in this league, and I've been around [Marco] Etcheverry and Moreno and [Eddie] Pope and [Landon] Donovan and [Robbie] Keane and [David] Beckham. He's in that class, no question about it.”
Moreno, who will become the seventh player inducted into the Hall of Tradition, joining Etcheverry, Pope, Jeff Agoos, John Harkes, Raúl Díaz Arce, Richie Williams and Ben Olsen, is as good a person as he was a player, Arena said.
“Great guy, great guy. I call him a friend,” Arena said. “He's just a terrific friend. I think he won over the D.C. United community. Very popular person and, obviously, great player, but his teammates loved him off the field as well.”
Arena discovered Moreno when Bolivia beat the US, 2-0, in a June 1996 friendly at RFK Stadium and signed him from England's Middlesbrough two months later.
“He ran circles around Jeff Agoos,” Arena said. “And I was coaching the Olympic team as well at the time. On the bus ride back after the Portugal game at RFK [in July], I was sitting with Sunil Gulati, and I said, 'Let's get him.' And we were able to turn that over kind of quickly.
“And as he would say, I owe my career to him, but I'd say it's the other way, and I'm very disappointed that one of his 50 children aren't named after me,” Arena kidded.
Moreno played 15 seasons in MLS, all but one of them with D.C. United, before retiring following the 2010 campaign. He's second on the MLS career goals list, with 133 – Donovan, with 132, is on the verge of passing him and all-time leader Jeff Cunningham, who has 134 – and fifth on the assists list, with 102. He also scored 12 playoff goals with 10 assists, winning four MLS Cup titles.
“He's one of the greatest players in the history of this league,” Arena said. “He helped D.C. United win championships, and his name should be in their Hall of Tradition. He belongs there, and no one would argue that.”