Set piece takers don’t always get the credit they deserve, but that wasn’t the case in the Semifinals of the 2016 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. FC Dallas midfielder Mauro Diaz earned TheCup.us Player Of The Round honors thanks to not one, but two well-taken corner kicks in extra time that found the heads of teammates. Those goals pushed the Hoops past the Los Angeles Galaxy, 2-1, and booked them a spot in the US Open Cup Final for the first time since 2007.
The award is voted on by the staff at TheCup.us and a select panel from the North American Soccer Reporters. Diaz was the clear winner, with Kei Kamara of the New England Revolution receiving strong consideration.
The FC Dallas midfielder also becomes the first player from Argentina to be named Player of the Round. Diaz is the fourth FC Dallas player to win the award, joining Kenny Cooper (2006), Abe Thompson (2008), and Blas Perez (2014).
After a hard-fought 90 minutes, neither team had managed to break through and extra time was needed to separate the MLS Western Conference foes. Giovani Dos Santos earned a penalty kick for Los Angeles in the 100th minute and Mike Magee converted from the spot to give their side the lead. FC Dallas pressed forward and Diaz served up pinpoint corner kicks in the 115th and one minute into stoppage time that found the heads of Matt Hedges and Victor Ulloa, respectively. The result itself was impressive enough, but Dallas also became the first away team to defeat the Galaxy in an Open Cup game since 2000.
Despite an injury-riddled start to his career in Dallas, Diaz is carrying on a long tradition of South American playmakers making waves in MLS. Unlike predecessors like Javier Morales (36), Diego Valeri (30), and former Columbus Crew star Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Diaz joined the club at a young age and looks set to play the entire prime of his career with the North Texas side.
While he looks to create for others first (he has 10 assists in MLS play this season), Diaz is also capable of finishing when needed.In the Fifth Round against the Colorado Rapids, he managed to poach the equalizer after teammate Fabian Castillo did all the heavy lifting, creating an excellent opportunity with a stunning solo run on the counter attack. Diaz has three goals to his name in MLS play so far this season as well.
The goal against Colorado gave him a total of two in his Open Cup career, the first coming in the 2014 Quarterfinal win against the Carolina RailHawks.
HIGHLIGHTS: FC DALLAS AT LA GALAXY (US OPEN CUP SEMIFINALS)