Top 50 MLS Cup Moments: #22 Masterpiece Theater
|D.C. United 2||Colorado 1|
|Did You Know?|
|Adrián Paz, who registered 25 career caps for the Uruguayan national team, became the first Uruguayan to play in the English Premier League when he joined Ipswich Town for the 1994-95 season.|
#22. Masterpiece Theater (1997)
The Colorado Rapids’ 2010 MLS Cup triumph made waves in the American soccer community. All the way from Toronto’s BMO Field to Palm Beach, Fla.
That’s where ex-Colorado midfielder Adrián Paz, who guided the Rapids to their first and only other previous MLS Cup appearance in 1997, celebrated the club’s first-ever trophy.
“When they’re doing well, I’m doing well,” Paz said from his Florida home. “All the places I have been at leave you something positive. The people in Colorado treated me well. The fans, the board and my teammates. It went well for me there and that’s where I had one of my best years.”
The 2010 triumph speaks for itself, but the Rapids goals that were scored to win the more recent final pale in comparison to the goal scored in defeat by Paz back at MLS Cup 1997.
His team was down 2-0 in the score line against D.C. United and against more than 57,000 fans, who were there at RFK Stadium to see the team in black emerge as winners. But Paz, who came on as a sub with 30 minutes remaining, did everything in his power to spoil the party.
The Uruguayan midfielder’s spectacular drive from an tight angle in the 75th minute found the far top corner and gave life to the Rapids. To this day, it remains one of the best strikes in MLS Cup history.
“We were convinced that we were going to tie it and we kept attacking,” Paz recalls. “[Former Rapids forward] Wolde Harris had a goal right there when he stopped the ball on the edge of the box and it almost missed the post. We really thought we could do it and we had a lot of enthusiasm. We had the chance to tie it on another Paul Bravo header and we fought to the end. But we couldn’t do it.”
While it sparked the Rapids to life, it may have also sparked D.C. United, which Paz refers to as “the best team in the league” that season.
“Based on our results, this wasn’t a final that we saw as very complicated,” ex-D.C. midield maestro Marco Etcheverry admits 14 years later. “Playing at home was ideal and we had been up 2-0 in the first half and very confident. This goal [by Paz] woke us up a little bit.”
Recalls D.C. legend Eddie Pope, “He hits that bomb into the corner and that’s when nerves set in, and we start holding on for dear life. For me, I remember thinking, 'I gotta do what it takes for win. There’s no way I’m losing this like this.'”
D.C. would eventually hold on and the Cinderella run by the Colorado Rapids would come to an end. Only three other MLS teams had worse regular season records, but the Rapids, led by manager Glenn “Mooch” Myernick, still made it all the way to the final.
As for Paz, he would return to the Rapids the following season in 1998 and set a new personal high for assists with 13. But after his three-year MLS contract expired, he could not come to an agreement and went to China to play for three months there before planning on returning to MLS. But in Shanghai, he suffered a severe long-term injury. Although he wanted back in MLS, the league did not take a chance on signing him.
Today, Paz is coaching alongside another former MLS midfielder, ex-Miami Fusion fixture Ian Bishop, for youth club FC Florida in Palm Beach. It’s a club for five- to 18-year-olds which is supported by Bishop’s old team, Manchester City. He's also helping to manage a hotel and soccer field complex back home in Montevideo, with the hope of luring MLS teams to preseason in Uruguay.
In the meantime, his most notable contribution to the league remains the screamer of a goal which has few rivals in cup history.
“When as a soccer player, you score a goal in a final like that you'll always remember it, whether you end up winning or losing,” Paz says. “It’s one of the four or five best goals of my career and I’ve also scored against Brazil for Uruguay. But 1997 was a beautiful goal and it proved to the Rapids that they didn’t make a mistake by signing me.”