After scoring two second-half goals to lead USL Championship side Detroit City FC to a comeback 2-1 win over the Columbus Crew in the Third Round of the 2022 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, their first victory over a Major League Soccer side, Maxi Rodriguez has been voted TheCup.us Player of the Round.
It turned out to be a narrow vote as he edged out his former club San Antonio FC’s goalkeeper Jordan Farr, who backstopped his side to a 2-1 win over MLS side and Open Cup debutant Austin FC. Also receiving consideration was Dion Acoff from Union Omaha (USL League One) who finished third, followed by Robert Cornwall from Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC (USL League One).
The award is voted on by TheCup.us staff, a select panel from the North American Soccer Reporters and select backers (those that pledge $10 or more) of TheCup.us’ Patreon team.
Rodriguez has usually been known as the pacemaker of the Detroit City FC squad since he joined in 2021 (when they were in the National Independent Soccer Association), but found himself at the end of the play instead of the start to get DCFC on the board. With Detroit City FC down 1-0, he was the recipient of a cross from Antoine Hoppenot and headed home the equalizer in the 64th minute. Rodriguez discussed the training that paid off: “Trevor always says, especially midfielders, there’s always time to talk about us getting in the box, getting on the end of crosses, so going into the game, I thought that was going to be important … to be fearless in the box, get into situations that will allow the team to score.”
From that point, Rodriguez remembered “it was kind of a feeling that there’s no way we go on and lose this game.” Then, with time ticking away, Michael Bryant was hauled down in the box by Crew captain Josh Williams. It was none other than Rodriguez who stepped to the spot. His shot went to the keeper’s left, bounced off the post, and slowly rolled in to give DCFC the lead.
“I think I’m pretty comfortable taking PKs, no matter the situation, so I kind of jog, got the ball and went through my routine. Goalie almost saved it, but luckily it snuck in the post, barely went over the line … Amazing run to our supporters section, team, behind me in such a pivotal game for the club. It was a dream come true.”
With those goals, Rodriguez scored his second and third in his US Open Cup career. His first came with his hometown club, San Antonio FC, in the Second Round in 2018, as they defeated Midland-Odessa Sockers FC 4-0.
Having grown up in San Antonio, he started training back in high school with the first iteration of the Texas side, known as the San Antonio Scorpions, and then further built a relationship with the Scorpions and later SAFC during his summers away from college with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. They informed him that they would invite him and possibly sign him if he did not get drafted after college, and did so in 2017.
The game against Columbus was not Rodriguez’s first against an MLS team. San Antonio FC faced off against FC Dallas in the Fourth Round in 2018, in which Dallas won the game in San Antonio 1-0. Rodriguez discussed how his youth played a factor in his appearance there: “I was a lot more nervous for the FC Dallas game. I was younger then, not as much experience under my belt.”
After a season with the Richmond Kickers in 2019, Rodriguez sat out 2020 having not found a club before the COVID-19 pandemic brought games to a halt. He was ready to call it quits, but COVID gave him an opportunity to train, and Detroit came calling as they prepared for 2021.
“They were interested in me as a player, and I ran at the idea of playing again after thinking that I was possibly going to be done … The rest is history. It was just the perfect fit for me and probably the best decision I ever made.”
He has become a club talisman with DCFC in the past two years, and talked about how he has found a home in Detroit.
“Sometimes you just need the right situation, the right scene, the right manager in order to … flourish and do well, and I feel like Detroit has been that pivotal team,” said Rodriguez. “Trevor has been that manager for me that trusts me and gives me the opportunity … (I’ve) just been trying to repay the club and him ever since.”
Rodriguez also spoke about the upcoming Round of 32 match at home against fellow USL Championship side Louisville City FC, a club that DCFC lost to in penalty kicks in the Second Round in 2016).
“I think it’s another opportunity for the club to make history. The league games are very important, but I think we’ve got to put extreme focus on that Open Cup game, and I think having a game at Keyworth is important. I think it’s going to big time for us as a team to have those supporters there and have the smoke, have the noise, and continue this run and not stop now.”