Mauro Manotas of the Housotn Dynamo celebrates one of his two goals against the Philadelphia Union in the 2018 US Open Cup Final. Photo: Houston Dynamo
With his parents watching among an announced crowd of 16,060 at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas on Wednesday night, Mauro Manotas put on a show. With a brace before the half hour mark, Manotas singlehandedly wrote Houston Dynamo history leading the club to a 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Union in the 2018 US Open Cup Final.
For his efforts, the Colombian has been voted TheCup.us Player of the Round. The award is voted on by TheCup.us staff and a select panel from the North American Soccer Reporters.
When Manotas left Colombia in 2015 as a Special Discovery signing, few believed that he would progress this far this fast. In less then a year, he had been upgraded to Young Designated Player status.
Manotas is no stranger to big moments having helped lead the Colombian Under-20 team to a silver medal at the 2015 South American Youth Football Championship. Earlier in 2014, he scored the crucial goal that kept his home club Uniautonoma in the Colombian Categoria Primera A League. In just his sixth MLS start, he scored a hat trick against the Portland Timbers.
Fast forward three years to September 26, 2018. It was the kind of night a striker dreams about. Playing in the championship game with everything on the line and knowing if you do your job, your teams stands a chance to win. That was what Manotas faced on that night.
“When you play a final you don’t need to motivate much,” said Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera. “Too much talking is not good. You need to be disciplined and understand that everyone is nervous, everyone is high on adrenaline. We had to be disciplined, organized and play to our strengths. When we had the chances we had to be sure to put those away and it couldn’t work out any better for us.”
The 23-year-old striker needed little time in getting Houston on the board. Fellow forward Alberth Elis chased a ball down near the endline and delivered a perfect service to the crouching Manotas who headed it home. The fourth minute goal was tied for the fastest goal in a championship game in the Modern Era.
His tenth came in the 26th minute of play. Controlling the ball just outside the box, Manotas received a ball from the right wing from Elis and got a step on Union defender Jack Elliott before unleashing a low blast that caromed off the near post into the back of the net. For Manotas, it was his 20th goal of the season across all competitions.
“Like I’ve always said, when you pray with faith, God rewards you,” explained the ever humble Manotas about his performance. “Today, I give thanks to God. The team was spectacular. Thanks to God we were able to win.”
With the two goals, Manotas tied the Modern Era single-tournament record for goals with six and finished as the competition’s top goalscorer.
With his performance this year, Manotas is breaking and tying US Open Cup records left and right. Manotas scored his first career Dynamo goal on a game-winning header in a 2015 US Open Cup win over the Colorado Rapids. Once you add his game-winning goal in the 2018 Final, that gives him five career game-winning goals in the tournament, which ties a Modern Era record.
With six more goals, Manotas added to his record as the Dynamo’s all-time leading goalscorer in US Open Cup play. His ten goals are six more than the next closest player on the list). What’s more incredible is that he has scored those 10 goals in just nine tournament games, giving him one of the best scoring rates in the Modern Era. Those goals in the championship game also extended his streak of four consecutive Cup matches with a goal, which ties a Modern Era record.
In just a few years, Manotas has risen up the goalscoring chart of MLS players in the Modern Era. Only two players on MLS teams have scored more goals than Manotas (Kenny Cooper and Jaime Moreno).
And one final statistic that Manotas and his team appreciates: Houston has never lost an Open Cup game when Manotas scores a goal.