United ends their worst season ever tomorrow night against Toronto FC and a more unfair ending to a storied career simply cannot be imagined. This absolutely nothing match will be the last time Jaime Moreno plays for DC United, the team he helped lead to all of its league best 12 major trophies, and the team that is forcing him out after tomorrow night’s game.
But first, the game itself deserves at least a blurb or two. TFC comes to town after an impressive tie against the Crew that should have been a win if not for an improbable last second goal from Hesmer, while DC staggers back to RFK after a valiant draw in Chicago which somewhat mitigates their stunning league record 17th time being shutout this year.
DC will be without their normal cadre of long term injured players, but add to that list, Jed Zayner who sprained an ankle in Chicago and likely Clyde Simms, who has been nursing a sports hernia that will require surgery next week. Plus, given the fact that Jaime will of course start, at least a few regular starters will be replaced for this match.
Given the situation, I suspect Jaime will pair up top with Pablo Hernandez, but I think it would be more fitting if Santino Quaranta played alongside his long time mentor, sort of passing the torch so to speak. But, given United’s staggering injury list, that just might not be possible.
More likely, Quaranta and rookie of the year candidate, Andy Najar, as well as Branko Boskovic fill out the midfield backed up by King or Morsink (my personal choice would be Morsink to reward his vastly improved play and flatout exceptional heart, but King might be a bit better choice against TFC specifically).
The defense will be a bit thin though without the versatile Zayner. Devon McTavish, Dejan Jakovic, Julius James, and Rookie Jordan Graye going right to left (or maybe left to right) should start in the defense, but there will not be any healthy defensive subs available.
Assuming TFC goes with the same lineup that nearly beat Columbus and reward some youngsters that shocked Arabe Unido in the CCL this week, except for the return of Dwayne DeRosario to the lineup of course, then that would mean TFC’s new coach Nick Dasovic, who took over after Preki was fired after losing to DC last month, will throw out quite a few young players.
I suspect Dasovic sends out their academy prospect Nicolas Lindsey and Brazilian Maicon Santos at forward, Jacob Peterson, DeRo, Julian DeGuzman, and Nick LaBrocca in midfield going right to left. Then Nana Attakora, Ty Harden, Nick Garcia, and Dan Gargan in defense going right to left.
So, matchups could favor DC especially as they will be the more motivated to be sure given Jaime’s no doubt emotional farewell. Toronto’s defense has been prone to bad goals all year, but ironically their real problem has been an exact mirror to DC’s dismal season in that their offense is simply non-existent outside of DeRo, so their defense is constantly under pressure and crumbles. So, the first goal in this one will be all the more crucial than it is any in any MLS match.
Anyway, Moreno and Hernandez have the trickery and ability to outmaneuver the wooden Harden and the vicious Garcia (now there’s a guy that will not be sentimental at all about Jaime’s hanging up his boots! It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see one of the most hated players in MLS history end Jaime’s career his with a lot more cleat and claw marks than he started the day with, but there you go.).
Quaranta and Graye going at Peterson and Attakora is maybe a slight edge to DC, Najar and McTavish going at LaBrocca and Gargan is perhaps less promising, but Najar has surprised more than a few people and if he outduels the underestimated LaBrocca, DC will be in good shape. Which could be crucial as DC will lose the center of the field, unless TFC has just packed it in. DeRo and DeGuz will beat out Boskovic and whoever for certain.
So, DC could get a goal, but the question is can they prevent any? There could be good odds on that as DeRo will be trouble, but Jakovic and James should handle Santos and Lindsey well enough unless DeRo just runs buck wild.
The intangibles also give DC a huge boost as TFC is a terrible road team at 2-9-2 this year and has lost their last two on the trot. Granted DC has not been stellar at home either, but then again TFC has never won in RFK either, going 0-3-1 and being outscored a shocking 14-6. The Canadians did come close last year leading for 86 minutes only to give up a tying goal, then scoring a minute later to retake the lead, but a Jaime Moreno slotted home a 92nd minute PK to snatch a point at the death. Now that would be a nice way to end a career if something similar was to happen again.
Anyway, I was going to do more of a Jaime tribute in this preview, but as it’s late and this is long as it is, look for that Jaime article next week. Just one thought about the end of an era taking place tomorrow night. There’s no question Jaime wins trophies, he was integral to every trophy DC has ever won, but will DC United find a way to win some without him is the question for this any probably many other off-seasons.