Jaime Moreno Exclusive Interview: MLS Legend
When you think of Bolivian football it’s hard to look past the name Jaime Moreno. One half of the lethal Etcheverry-Moreno partnership in the 90’s that saw DC dominate the league, Moreno also spent time in England with Middlesbrough. Now coaching DC United’s next generation, he took time out to talk us through a glittering career on the field as well as what he tries to teach his players off it.
Kristan Heneage (KH): You mentioned in an interview with DCUnited.com that you had other options around 1996. What were those?
Jaime Moreno (JM): Well you know I had a small option to go back to Middlesbrough at the time. At the same time before MLS, I could have gone to the second division in Portugal, which you know we are never going to know how that would of gone. There was a team in second division of Spain that had just been relegated too. Those were my only options I had.
KH: You mentioned Middlesbrough. You were there with the likes of Juninho and Emerson. Did that make it easier to settle?
JM: Yeah it was enjoyable to play with those guys. I went back to Europe as that was my goal. Other things happened here [in] winning Championships and being with such a good team and being comfortable getting playing time, which made it good here. But my goal was still to go back to Europe, hopefully get a little more mature, stronger, and to go back to Europe.
KH: When you returned to Europe, did you think this is it, this is where I will forge my career?
JM: Not really, I didn’t think like that. I knew I had a contract to DC and I would have to do something spectacular for me to go back to Middlesbrough permanently. At the time they did want me back but they knew the cost would be more than what they sold me for. So that was one of the issues. I knew I had a longer contract with DC, which is why in my head it was like I had to stay at least in DC for another two years and then see what happens but from there it is history.
KH: I also noticed you still own the bobble-head from your time at Middlesbrough. DDo you still look out for their results?
JM: Yeah I do, I was there last month. My wife’s cousin Parky [Gary Parkinson Ex-Middlesbrough player] had a stroke. We went to be there for him and it was nice to see the people, see old friends, and play in the Riverside [Middlesbrough stadium] again. The people there are so nice. They treat me the same way as if it was yesterday.
KH: In terms of DC they were very dominant in the 90’s. How much do you attribute that to having you the goal scorer and Marco Etcheverry creating chances behind you?
JM: Well that team was a big hit. We did make a big name for us [DC United]. I think they put a nice team together with Marco, myself, Ritchie Williams, John Harkes — you name it was an awesome team, something that is very rare now [because] you don’t see real quality players. The game is different, very physical and hard work. You don’t see much technique. Like I said every year it is getting tougher and tougher to be a player.
KH: You were quite the creator yourself. Do you think its important strikers contribute more and more?
JM: As the years go by, you get more experience. You mature and grow older. You see the game more. When you lose your pace you start creating a different position for yourself where you mentally prepare yourself. You are in a different position and you start to create for others, which is also important for the team.
KH: Your 100th assist was actually for Ben Olsen. As an ex-DC player, does he bring a special understanding to the job?
JM: He definitely brings all his experience. He’s a guy with a big heart. He’s been in the club a little bit less than me but he knows what its all about and is trying to contribute and show the new younger guys how it is to win and [how to] get it done. It’s never easy to take that job especially when you have a lot of new players and you try to create a new team, it’s always hard. So far he’s done an okay job.
KH: You now coach. How hard has that transition been for you?
JM: Actually it’s not that difficult because I’m still around the first team. I see the guys and we joke around. It hasn’t hit me that much. I still play at the weekends in the Bolivian league so it hasn’t really hit me.
KH: Who do you play for now?
JM: I play on weekends in the 3rd division Bolivian league. It is mainly a lot of college kids and young guys but for me it’s good to keep my shape.
KH: Really? The defenders must be petrified when you turn up, getting ready to play and Jaime Moreno shows up!
JM: [Laughs] To be honest, with the kids, they appreciate it. Some kids want to kick me. There are so many different people out there. Some respect me, some don’t. I love the game that much, I still play on weekends.
KH: When it comes to teaching youngsters, is there one key lesson you try to engrain in them?
JM: I don’t think there is a secret as long as you believe in yourself. You work and you put all your knowledge and pretty much listen to what coaches say. Then I think everything just comes on their own. It was hard for me to understand that. My coach was saying that to me at 19 but I thought all the work I was doing was more than enough but there was always room to work harder and improve. I think that was one of my mistakes and we all learn by our mistakes, so thats what I try to tell these kids.
KH: Teammates of yours said how you often did extra training sessions. Do you try to get the youngsters at U23 to do that?
JM: Usually yes. For me the last 5 years after my surgery I worked extra in my house and it did pay off for me. Maybe not for everyone but for me it did. And it showed on the field. And thats the only thing I tell the kids to do extra work in the afternoon and it will pay off in its own way.
KH: Your son James had a trial with West Ham United. Is he still wanting to be a professional?
JM: Yeah he does but I told him he has a long way to go and to prepare himself for that and we will see where he goes with that and see what happens.
KH: What position does he play and does he come to you for advice?
JM: He plays just behind the forward and he doesn’t come and ask for advice. He’s a little bit stubborn [laughs].
KH: Your last goal for Bolivia was a beautiful dipped shot. Was it nice to sign off with a goal of such quality?
JM: Yeah it was. After I had a big spell in the national team, then I didn’t play for 3 years. I knew it was my last Copa America to prove it to myself to play at that level. I was fortunate to score. We didn’t get through to the next round unfortunately but it was still nice for me.
KH: In my research I saw the awards you won: MLS Best XI, MLS Cup MVP. What does it mean to be engrained in MLS history like that?
JM: It’s great to be part of that foundation but you know you always think you can do more and it’s never going to be enough to say I did it and that’s enough. Now I continue to do something in a different way but still linked with soccer.
KH: Do you have a favorite goal from your career?
JM: That is hard for me, but you know goals from finals are always special. So really any goal in a final is my favourite.
KH: The big news from DC right now is the signing of Dwayne De Rosario. What kind of impact do you think he will have?
JM: We know how good he is. The talent he’s got is no secret. The coaches and staff think he will bring that to the team. We don’t know what will happen but we hope he brings his talent and quality to the team as well as his knowledge of the game.
KH: You’re currently a coach but have you considered management in the future?
JM: Maybe, you never know. I think I want to prepare myself first.
KH: Away from football you have set up the 99 Dreams Foundation. How is your work with that going?
JM: Unfortunately we are still waiting for the Tax ID number but we have raised some money. Once we get that number we will hopefully look to do more work with the 99 Dreams Foundation.
KH: My final question and I need an honest answer on this one. The goal against Chicago Fire from wide right, was it a cross or did you mean to sneak it in?
JM: Oh it was a cross, definitely.
Learn more about Jaime’s charity, 99 Dreams.