MLS Warhorses Hanging ’Em Up: Moreno, Brown, Klein, Lewis

We’re getting a steady stream of late-season retirement news this week, as we continue to witness the end of an era in Major League Soccer following the announcements of Cint Mathis, Mike Petke and Brian McBride earlier in the year.

Along with veteran LA midfielders Chris Klein and Eddie Lewis, DC United legend Jaime Moreno and Chicago’s charter centerback, C.J. Brown, also declared that this season would be their last.

• Klein, 34, played 13 seasons in MLS, suiting up for Kansas City and Real Salt Lake before joining the Galaxy in 2007. The former Indiana University star earned 22 caps for the U.S. national team, scoring five goals. He holds the MLS records for consecutive starts (118) and appearances (141), and is fifth alltime in games played, with 332.

• The 36-year-old Lewis (whose announcement came a while back but was made official on Wednesday) began his career with San Jose in 1996 and then made the jump to England in ’99, playing with four teams (Fulham , PNE, Leeds, and Derby County) before returning to MLS, and the Galaxy, in 2008. He has 82 caps and 10 goals for the U.S., which he represented at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.

• Brown, 35, joined Chicago in 1998, the same year the Fire entered MLS as an expansion team, and he has been the club’s starting centerback ever since. He’s the only remaining original member of the club. Brown has 15 caps for the U.S., and was on the field for two of the more surprising results in U.S. history, the 1-0 win over Argentina in a June 1999 friendly at RFK, and the 2-0 defeat of Germany in the Confederations Cup later that summer.

• Moreno, a 36-year-old striker from Bolivia, is the last remaining MLS original in the league. (McBride and Lewis were both part of MLS during its first season, but not continuously to the present day.) He’s also Major League Soccer’s alltime leading scorer, with 132 career goals. Jeff Cunningham of Dallas equaled Moreno’s total recently, and both men will look to increase their totals this weekend.

In addition to his career-goals record, Moreno has four MLS Cups and five Best XI selections to his name. He’s been a cornerstone of the DC franchise, the most successful team in MLS history.

All of these players have been pivotal builders and sustainers of the league, which was a far different place when they began playing in it. There were no Beckhams and Henrys back then—and no Andy Najars and Tim Reams, either.

But now, thanks to players like these outgoing veterans, MLS is a thriving league with big-name foreign stars and promising youngsters alike—and three new teams set to join the fold in the next two years.

U.S. Referee Chief: Moreno’s Equalizer vs Philly “Dubious”

Okay he didn’t use that word—and MLS doesn’t even have a Dubious Goals Panel, yet—but according to the MLS website, U.S. Soccer Director of Referee Development Paul Tamberino said that Moreno’s 7oth-minute equalizer against Philadelphia should not have counted. As Tamberino sees it, Moreno’s actions on the play amounted to interference on Union keeper Chris Seitz.

Here’s the evidence:

According to Tamberino, Moreno’s goal should have been disallowed, Philly should have been awarded a free kick, and the MLS alltime leading scorer should have been yellow-carded on the play. Tamberino believes that referee Terry Vaughn missed Moreno’s fake charge at the keeper on the play, and only saw Seitz spill the ball, hence his decision to let the goal stand.

What do all the keepers out there think? How about the strikers?

Fortunately, the question—as Jesse Jackson would say—is moot: Philadelphia scored ten minutes later and won the game.

MLS Originals Down to One

With last week’s announcements that former New England Revolution midfielder Steve Ralston had signed with A.C. St. Louis of the second-division NASL, and that ex-Chivas USA midfielder Jesse Marsch had ended his playing days, accepting a position on U.S. coach Bob Bradley’s national team staff, the number of players who’ve been with Major League Soccer since its inaugural season in 1996 dipped to one—D.C. United striker Jaime Moreno.

Ralston, who began his career with the Tampa Bay Mutiny, departs MLS as the league’s all-time assists leader, with 135 in 378 career games. He also scored 76 goals. He was Rookie of the Year in ’96, and won the 2007 U.S. Open Cup as well as the 2008 North American SuperLiga with the Revolution. Ralston made 36 appearances for the U.S. during his top-flight career, scoring four goals.

Marsch retires in fourth place on the league’s all-time games-played list with 321. He played for D.C. United, the Chicago Fire, and Chivas USA, and was a member of three MLS Cup–winning sides. He finishes his career with 26 goals and 35 assists, and two caps for the U.S.

Moreno joined MLS in August of 1996, scoring five goals in 16 appearances that season for United, and playing in D.C.’s 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy in MLS Cup. He would go on to win four more titles with D.C., and he enters the 2010 season as the league’s all-time leading scorer, with 131 goals in 319 MLS appearances.

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MLS OG’s

Marsch: charter member.

With the recent retirements of Jay Heaps and Ben Olsen, it’s safe to say we are entering a generational-turnover period now that MLS, Year 14, is in the books.

It got us thinking about some of the MLS warhorses still out there, guys like C.J. Brown of Chicago. (Did you know Brown has 15 caps for the U.S. and was on the field for the Nats 1-0 upset of Argentina at RFK in 1999? He does, and he was.1) Or players such as Zach Thornton, Carey Talley, Kevin Hartman, Matt Reis, and Jimmy Conrad—dudes who have been around for a while and have seen the growth and changes up close.

How many players, for instance, are left from Major League Soccer’s inaugural season, 1996? MLS Originals, they call them at the league office—guys who’ve played in every season of the league’s existence. We dug around, and according to our research, the number is currently down to three.

They are…drumroll, please…Jesse Marsch, Jaime Moreno, and Steve Ralston.

Ante Razov was an MLS Original up until this past season, but he didn’t appear in any games in 2009, breaking his string.

Thornton is the next closest to making the cut—he joined the league in 1996, but he went on loan to Portugal in 2004. Even though he returned to MLS in September of that year, he didn’t play in any games, so he’s got a one-year gap in his record.

Moreno joined late in the inaugural season (August ’96), but he played in games and scored goals that year, and every one after it, so he makes it. (He also happens to be the league’s all-time leading scorer.)

Ralston was Rookie of the Year in 1996, and has barely missed a beat since. He’s played 35 times for the U.S.

Also pictured: David Beckham.

Marsch is one of Backpost’s favorite MLS players, all-time. He started at D.C. as a fringe player, came into his own in Chicago, and is currently a team leader at Chivas USA. He’s suited up twice for the U.S. during his 14-year pro career.

So there they are, the members of MLS’s most exclusive club, The Originals.

Did we miss anyone? Let us know in the comments.

1. We were in attendance at RFK that day, and through a ticketing snafu seated in the heart of the Argentine section. But when Earnie Stewart backheeled to Joe-Max Moore and Moore buried it for the win, we did not hold back, despite the sea of Albicelestes surrounding us. We got a plastic vuvuzela-like horn in the ear for our efforts.