The best soccer player inside Finley Stadium on Saturday night wasn’t in uniform. Instead, he was seated on the D.C. United under-23 team’s bench wearing blue jeans and a white button-down shirt.
Jaime Moreno, a 37-year-old Bolivian who retired in 2010 after playing 15 seasons for United, is the U-23 squad’s coach. He’s Major League Soccer’s all-time leading scorer and likely one of the two best players in MLS history — the other being Landon Donovan.
Before Moreno’s team’s 2-1 exhibition win over the Chattanooga Football Club in front of a crowd of 1,603, CFC officials tried to get the man with 134 career goals and three MLS Cup titles to join in the fun on the field.
“I was talking about it early on, but I haven’t done anything for six months, so I don’t want to pull any muscles,” Moreno said, laughing.
A year ago, CFC traveled to Washington, D.C., to face United’s U-20 squad at RFK Stadium. Both CFC and United have Volkswagen as a primary sponsor, and VW that helped make that trip possible.
This return trip, CFC general manager Sean McDaniel said, was put together by the two clubs.
“We’re thrilled that D.C. United has really embraced what we’re trying to do here,” McDaniel said. “They have been extraordinarily supportive, to the point where they now recognize CFC as a potential benefit to them as they build their teams.”
United’s coaches were scouting CFC’s players Saturday, and a more formal partnership between United and CFC could be in the works, McDaniel said.
The MLS is discussing the development of a feeder system, McDaniel said, similar to baseball’s minor leagues. If that happens, McDaniel said he has been informed by United general manager Dave Kasper that CFC would be one of United’s affiliates.
Forward Chris Ochieng, CFC’s leading scorer the past two seasons, and goalkeeper Thomas Hunter are among the players United was told to keep an eye on in CFC’s season finale, McDaniel said.
Hunter gave up a goal late in the first half, and United’s second came on a perfectly executed corner kick that resulted in a header goal. Hunter, who had a tryout with Philadelphia Union of the MLS earlier this summer, made several difficult, diving saves.
“I didn’t make enough, but I feel like I played well,” Hunter said.
Ochieng was the game’s dominant player offensively, continuously attacking and putting pressure on the United back line, but he couldn’t manage a score.
Defender Nick Odeny scored CFC’s goal on a header in the 86th minute.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...