Jaime Moreno on Hall of Tradition: 'I did something right'
Along with the announcement of Jaime Moreno's induction into D.C. United's Hall of Tradition, CSNwashington had a chance to sit down with the local legend for an exclusive interview to talk about his 15-year career in the MLS. Here's the transcript with a little bonus material that didn't make our cut for the feature.
CSNW: What do you miss the most about playing?
JM: Waking up every morning, even though I wake up early every morning, but just getting ready for practice. And every Saturday. It was the longest day of my life were Saturdays, because staying in my house or hotel, I never sleep more than eight hours so I was up at seven o’clock in the morning wherever I was and I was going crazy trying to do stuff and waiting for the game. Traveling with the team, just the player’s life.
I think my kids enjoy more now that I’m around more, even though sometimes I don’t like it, they’re like, ‘oh you have to continue playing’ but that’s definitely what I miss the most.
CSNW: I know that you were really into pranks. What's your favorite locker room prank that you pulled off?
JM: Favorite pranks, I have so many. We used to put on their underwear the Icy Hot cream and the mistake that you make is that you go to the showers and it's even worse. There were guys that were screaming. There were guys at practice that would start sweating and they would get worse and worse.
CSNW: You wore a very revered number across the sports world. What made you choose No. 99?
JM: It was funny, one day I came back from New York and Freddy had No. 9 and so they were thinking what number they were going to give me. I was sitting with [then United CEO Kevin Payne] in his office and the equipment manager came in and he was like, "What number are we going to give Jaime?" I just said 99 and they asked why and I said, "if I was 9 then now I’m 99 because I’m twice as good, so just double up the number." So Kevin was like, "I like it. Give him 99."
At one point I thought I was going to be 74, the year that I was born but then just throw the 99, I never thought they were going to say yes. That’s how it happened.
CSNW: What did it mean for you to come back to D.C. the second time?
JM: I had a lot of hard feelings because of the way things happened and the way I went to New York and things didn't work out and I had a back injury. To take me back I knew it was their business to take care of themselves and say, "you come here and we don't know how your back is going to be, we're only going to give you so much money." For me it was a slap in the face, the money they offered me, with a lot of bonus and actually I reached all of my bonus that year because it was my best year.
It had a lot of anger at myself. But I was lucky enough that I put all those feelings away and I just worked as hard as I could, not even when I was younger did I work as hard as that year. It proved to myself the most that I could still play and I proved a lot of people wrong that were saying that I was done. So it was a big year.
When I look at all my years, really, I was very steady. I wasn’t great. I wasn’t bad. I was always at the same level and that’s very hard to keep that level. Then after 2004 I thought my level got even better. I think it's just years that you play and they give you so much experience, even my position changed, but you see things different and easier. You make things easier and that’s when you know you’re successful. Soccer is all about making things easy for yourself and your teammates. It just worked out perfect.
CSNW: When you see fans around the arena wearing the number 99 --and there are many of them-- what does that mean to you?
JM: Appreciation. You know, they probably bought it at Christmas when it was cheaper [laughs]. No, it’s nice. It’s nice that people still have my number but I know it's just because they can’t afford to buy another one [laughs]. It’s nice. I know that they do appreciate because I hang out with La Barra Brava and other people that I met recently. Kids that don’t know, the new generation don’t really know who I am, but it is what it is.
CSNW: What moment stands out the most for you as you look back upon your playing career?
JM: I got a couple, winning championships, those are the greatest moments you can achieve. One of the biggest moments for me was when I broke the [goal] record and they gave the ball to my son, I thought that was very special.
CSNW: I assume your son still has that ball, right?
JM: Yeah. Oh yeah [laughs]. Definitely titles and at the same time being somebody, being a role model for the younger generation. You don't realize the impact you can have on other people until you're done playing. Then I realized teammates and college players were talking about me. It was something I never heard. It's just doing the right things and knowing that you have helped this league grow and being part of the generation that was totally different than it is now. We did something that I think a lot of people do appreciate and it shows with all the affection. And now soccer is growing so much. Even though the younger, younger kids don't recognize me and their parents have to explain to them who I am, it's just nice to get stopped and told 'thank you for what you've done'.
It's a nice feeling. Definitely you always feel short because you feel like you could have done a lot of things better, but that's life.