It appears that Jaime Moreno is close to making a comeback with DC United as reported by The Washington Post. Moreno had worn out his legendary status with the club after dreadful performances (for him) in 2001 and 2002, and was traded to the Metros prior to the 2003 season in a salary cap driven move that felt more like an excommunication. In limited action last season due to a couple herniated discs, Moreno was a shadow of his former self, but still managed to light up RFK as usual with a glimpse of his enormous talent by scoring a lovely goal last July.
On paper, this is clearly a wonderful gamble as Moreno's breathtaking talents are undisputed. He may well be the most talented field player ever to play in MLS at the prime of his career. Even better, he will apparently cost little in order to gain his rights from the Metros, and only if he actually plays well (which is obviously a good thing) will he cost something serious in the future. Sounds like a no lose scenario.
However, his wonderful skills and past glory are not the full story. After being a dominant force imposing his will on every game he played in for the first 5 years of his career, his desire to excel just seemed to rapidly fade away after the constant beatings of Crusty Pierce among others of the viciously effective fraternity of felons MLS has tolerated over the years. Plus, getting back to form after major back surgery is obviously a gamble in it’s own right. Worse, there is reason to believe Jaime was a divisive element that helped to undermine both Rongen and Hudson in their ability to motivate United out of it's doldrums during their tenures as the coach of DC.
His last 3 years at United, he was never seen as a poster child for work ethic and at times even his desire to earn his paycheck at all were in question. Add to that the fact that Bradley, with only infants as forward alternatives on his roster, is apparently willing to wash his hands of Moreno this easily is a telling fact in and of itself. Finally, since only Payne has been quoted on the matter of Moreno's United return, it brings to mind the specter of doubt about the possibility of a meddling front office causing trouble for yet another coach.
HOWEVER, before this turns into another seemingly pessimistic ramble, let me just say that I’m truly excited about this move. Going pretty much on gut feeling, I believe Jaime is ready to face the reality that he has limited paydays left in his career and will embrace this last chance, and more importantly, the discipline and structure that Nowak seems to be bringing to the club. The loyalty it shows to a former great player and the boost it could give to the club on the field are all positives in my mind as well.
First and foremost, Moreno apparently has to earn his contract by impressing the coaching staff over a month of pre-season training down in the heat of Florida. This is not like the old days of him vacationing in Bolivia for some holistic treatment of meat pies and incense, then jetting back just prior to the season in order to inherit his rightful role as a starting forward. A month of scrutiny should make it pretty clear whether or not he deserves to even be on the team. That he is even willing to agree to this trial rather than seek some sort of guarantee is a huge sign that his head is on straight.
Not only that, but it will show how he will interact with the players and the coaches prior to there being any commitments. Other failed attempts to bring back former United players usually were usually done on the fly with little more than prayer to hope they would fit in and succeed. So for example, if Jaime turns out to be a bad example, a poor teammate, out of shape, unable to recover from the back surgery, whatever; then he's gone and no harm done.
This is also a good test of Nowak's changes in the atmosphere of the club. Peter the Perfectionist does not seem to be the type to tolerate any foolishness from anyone no matter how great they are, nor does he seem the type to risk having a bad apple spoil the barrel. Even better, I believe he will have the final say over roster decisions and has the respect of the Gang of Three to over-rule any sentimentality or marketing ideas that might distract from the overall expectations of the club on the field.
Jaime to me has always seemed the mischevious-rebellious type that takes advantage of situations if he's allowed the leeway to do so, and frankly with Peter showing the wherewithal to search laundry bins, I can't imagine him allowing any extra-curricular nonsense to distract from the team concept. So, those particular avenues of pleasure should be cut off and I think Jaime will respect that. Clearly, if he brings Jaime back to productivity and keeps the team atmosphere structured and positive, or conversely, dumps him like a bad habit if it's necessary to do so, then he's probably got the goods as an MLS coach.
But, the best part of the whole deal is that assuming Jaime makes the team and gets back even close to his former self, he will immediately make United a more dynamic offense. Admittedly, that's a big IF, but if he makes the roster, you've got to figure he close to his old self and his back can take the pounding, or he'll be gone faster than the first round at Happy Hour.
The temptation to dream of his return to form is just too compelling. Jaime is only 30 and could easily get back to being a legitimate threat to embarrass a defender any time he steps on the field, and his skills can be used to complement any forward on the current roster. He and Stewart or Cerritos can ticky-tack rings around almost any defenders in the league. He obviously will make pure finishers like Esky and Martins that much more effective, etc. His ability to hold the ball balances out the willy-nilly attacking that sometimes plagues United's young talents. He can pass and more importantly shoot with deadly accuracy seemingly at will. His enormous talent just seems too good to be denied if really is past his injury and mental issues.
Obviously, this could all just be wishful thinking, but Moreno getting another shot at setting at mending his fences in DC just feels right. His silky smooth attacking skills and deadly finishing terrorized MLS defenses on the way to United earning every trophy in it's case and every star on it's uniform. His ignoble departure under such unsavory circumstances (on both sides) prior to last season cast a shadow on his legacy, and this just seems to be a bit of justice allowing him to re-write the final chapter of his United career with a happy ending this time.