American star Moore retires

American soccer has had a tough time producing talented pure strikers, but Joe-Max Moore was the exception. With his natural predatory instincts, Moore was a flashy forward who could crisply curve a ball around a defensive wall. His goals — and he scored quite a few — never looked cheap.

Though he didn’t generate as much fame as John Harkes or Alexi Lalas, Moore certainly was one of the greats in the constellation of American soccer players before hanging up his cleats this week.

A three-time American World Cup player and New England Revolution forward, Moore retired while facing reconstructive surgery on the MCL in his right knee a week ago.

“Considering my age [33] and the recovery time necessary, I have decided to end my playing career,” Moore said in a letter to fans.

A member of the Revolution’s inaugural team in 1996, Moore steps down as the club’s second-leading career scorer with 42 goals in 98 games. He missed most of the 2004 season because of the knee injury.

Moore played on several overseas clubs, including FC Saarbruecken and FC Nuremberg in Germany and Emelec in Ecuador. But his biggest paycheck came when he starred for English Premier League club Everton from 1999 to 2001. There he scored 10 goals in 37 games and had the distinction of scoring the Premiership’s 10,000th goal.

The UCLA star played 100 games for the U.S. team and was on its roster at the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cups. His 24 international goals place him third on the United States’ all-time list behind Eric Wynalda and Brian McBride. He holds the record for most points in a U.S. game (10) after scoring four goals and adding two assists in a 7-0 win over El Salvador in 1993.

My best memory of Moore was at RFK Stadium in June 1999, when he blasted home a wicked back-heel pass from Earnie Stewart to down Argentina 1-0.

Moore was introduced to soccer when his father purchased the Tulsa Roughnecks of the old North American Soccer League. His dad then built a full-size soccer field in the backyard, and Moore was on his way.

Sunshine for the champs — D.C. United’s players gathered yesterday at RFK Stadium for their first meeting since winning the Major League Soccer title in November. The team travels to Bradenton, Fla., on Wednesday for two weeks of practice and games against Columbus (Feb.5), Real Salt Lake (Feb.8), the U.S. under-20 team (Feb.13) and the MetroStars (Feb.15) before returning to D.C. on Feb.16. The club will train in Honolulu from Feb.21 to 27, a trip that will include a game against Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, United re-signed defender Mike Petke yesterday. Petke earned $165,000 last year as one of the highest-paid defenders in the league but is believed to have a taken a pay cut to remain with the team.

Another Yank — There’s another American playing in the English Premier League. New Jersey native Jemal Johnson, 19, made his Premiership debut Monday, coming off the bench in Blackburn’s 1-0 loss to Bolton. The speedy forward came up through Blackburn’s youth ranks, helping the club win an under-19 title.

Blackburn’s other Americans are U.S. team goalkeeper Brad Friedel and David Yelldell, the Rovers’ 6-foot-5 backup keeper who has dual German and American nationality. Yelldell made his debut for the Rovers against D.C. United in July 2003.

Peace Cup — PSV Eindhoven (Holland), Olympique Lyon (France), Tottenham Hotspur (England), Real Sociedad (Spain), Boca Juniors (Argentina), Once Caldas (Colombia), Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa) and Seongnam Ilhwa (Korea) will compete in the 2005 Peace Cup in South Korea from July15 to 24. PSV won the $2million prize at the inaugural event in 2003.

Howard blooper — American goalie Tim Howard was in the headlines again this week after allowing Damien Duff’s long-range free kick to sail by him and give Chelsea a 2-1 victory over Manchester United in the Carling League Cup semifinal.

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