Diaz was involved in all four goals as he set new Modern Era records for assists in an Open Cup final (3) and points (5 – 1 goal, 3 assists). Both of those numbers could’ve been further inflated if his second half set piece delivery to Maxi Urruti that found the back of the net hadn’t been called back for an offside call.
The first assist from Diaz came in the 15th minute when he served a ball into the box from the right wing that found Urruti who volleyed home the early equalizer. In the 40th, Diaz collected the ball outside the box and chipped a perfectly-placed ball into the box where Matt Hedges dove and nodded it past the keeper to give the home team a 2-1 lead. Diaz added to the lead deep into first half stoppage time when he converted a penalty kick. His third assist came in the 61st minute when he sent a through ball in behind the last two defenders to Urruti who ran on to it and scored his second of the night.
Urruti, who also received strong consideration for the award, had an impressive night himself as he became just the fourth player in the Modern Era to score multiple goals in a final.
Adding his three assists on Tuesday night, Diaz also tied a tournament record with five assists, putting him level with the Miami Fusion’s Diego Serna, who tallied the same number back in the 2000 edition of the tournament with the Miami Fusion (MLS).
Diaz didn’t necessarily get off to a fast start in the tournament, but he did provide the set piece delivery for both of his team’s overtime goals against the Los Angeles Galaxy in the semifinals and he has been the team’s creative engine (he leads the team with 11 assists in MLS play) throughout their entire 2016 season.
Head Coach Oscar Pareja was quick to point out as much after the game on Tuesday night.
“Mauro’s performance tonight, I thought, was a collection of what he has done this year. Mauro showed the heart of this club.”, Pareja said of his side’s captain.
The voting between Diaz and Urruti was closer than some might’ve expected, but at the end of the day he deserved the award for being the best player on the field until he exited to a standing ovation from the home crowd in the 82nd minute.
Diaz, who won the award for his two-assist Semifinal performance against the Los Angeles Galaxy, becomes just the fourth player since 2006 to win back-to-back Player of the Round awards. He joins Pat Noonan of the New England Revolution (2007 Semifinals, Final), Nate Jaqua of the Seattle Sounders (2010 Quarterfinals, Semifinals) and Danny Barrera of Cal FC (2012 First Round, Second Round).
Dallas’ midfield meistro remains the only Argentinian to win the award. Expect his name to also come up when the Player of the Tournament voting takes place.
TheCup.us Player of the Round is voted on by the staff of TheCup.us and a select panel from the North American Soccer Reporters.