It was a melancholy night at RFK Stadium Saturday, as it always is for DC United supporters when the season finale hits, and we know going in there’s no playoffs to be had.
Beyond simply being the final game, it’s the final tailgate, and in many cases, the final time you’ll share stories and beverages and food with friends until hope springs to life again in March.
This was combined with the fact that United fans were seeing the final game for club and MLS legend Jaime Moreno. Fittingly, Moreno drew and then converted a penalty for his 133rd career goal (for now, the all-time MLS best). It was what we had all hoped for – that Moreno would tally in his finale, and with the goal giving United a 2-1 lead over Toronto FC, we hoped the second part of the script would include United holding on to the lead and giving Moreno a victorious sendoff.
But in the end, even on this special night, it perhaps wasn’t wise to think United would shed what has been their 2010 identity. United did in fact give up the lead early in the second half, then fell behind as Toronto scored twice and walked out 3-2 winners.
Despite the score, most United fans stayed, and Moreno was given a warm, emotional sendoff when subbed off in the final 10 minutes. He exchanged greetings with all his teammates, and even with a couple members of classy and sporting TFC players. And in that moment, Moreno walked out of our lives forever. It was hard to watch Moreno’s family be so broken up after the game, as the player greeted fans in front of the supporters’ club sections at midfield.
Perhaps just as sad as that thought, is the realization of what now is left. Which, barring a keen offseason from the front office, is very little. There’s the young Andy Najar, and a full season of Branko Boskovic and Pablo Hernandez is somewhat intriguing to me.
But as we’ve seen multiple times this season, a complete defensive upgrade is needed, United have to be more dangerous on the wings, and perhaps an upgrade in goal could be sought (though, better defensive work might make the Troy Perkins/Bill Hamid combo look better, to be fair to both).
All of this, however, makes this the perfect time for Moreno to exit. There’s no reason for him to hang on for another season that may well look much like what we saw in 2010. He’s done all he can do, more than anyone else in league history. His records will be surpassed, his legacy never will be.
United have many changes to make, and even if we don’t like it, it’s time to move on. I know there’s a big segment of fans that would love to see Moreno play forever, just as we did when the end finally came for Ben Olsen as a player. United fans hold their heroes dear, and the bond between Moreno and the community has been tight and has uplifted all involved.
No one replaces Moreno. No one will step in next year and instantly become that kind of hero. And it would be unfair for us as fans to put those expectations on a single player.
Seeing the end of Moreno’s career is a monumental transmission for the club and the fans, even if his goal and assist numbers have declined (as almost everybody on the team’s did this year). With Moreno gone and Olsen not likely to continue as head coach, the links to the glory years are now just about completely fractured for good.
United have never gone this long without winning an MLS Cup. No one would make them favorites in 2011. There are many changes to be made, and there’s no time like the present to get down to business.
My heart wishes Moreno could be a part of it. But my brain knows that 99% of good things must end … and it was time for this to end. I wish Jaime Moreno nothing but the best in whatever endeavors he takes on. I have no doubt he will be a success. He will always be a hero to me.
And I wish United nothing but the best in getting themselves out of the MLS cellar. I have no doubt … there’s a long way to go.
And maybe, just maybe, that’s what made last night all the more difficult.