Top 50 MLS Cup Moments: #16 Slim Pickens
|Colorado 2||FC Dallas 1|
|Did You Know?|
|Matt Pickens, who played college ball at Missouri State University, was signed by English side Queens Park Rangers in 2008 before eventually returning to MLS with the Colorado Rapids in 2009.|
#16. Slim Pickens (2010)
Prior to the 2010 MLS Cup, the most memorable postseason moment of Matt Pickens’ career was probably one he’d love to forget.
He was a stalwart in net during two playoff bids for the Chicago Fire in 2006 and 2007, and both ended with Chicago watching the MLS Cup from the couch. The second exit was perhaps the most painful for Pickens, who was in net for Taylor Twellman’s magnificent game-winning bicycle kick in the 2007 Eastern Conference Championship, which was the last game Pickens played with Chicago before trying his hand in England.
When Pickens resurfaced in the postseason last year, he didn’t grab too many headlines as the Colorado Rapids’ man on the line during the MLS Cup. There certainly were other storylines – Brian Mullan’s shot at a fifth crown, Pablo Mastroeni’s quest for a first, Gary Smith’s bid to give the Rapids their first title in franchise history – and Pickens was an afterthought compared to FC Dallas netminder and MLS legend Kevin Hartman at the other end of the field.
But the game inevitably hinged on a reaction save by Pickens in the 111st minute. Only minutes after George John found himself on the wrong end of a costly own-goal, the FC Dallas defender latched on to a loose ball in the Colorado box, and teed off with a left-footed shoot destined to send the match into a penalty kick shootout.
“There was a big scrum, maybe 10 yards in front of me, and I just knew the ball was gonna pop out somewhere,” Pickens said. “I was just waiting for it, ‘It’s gonna pop out, it’s gonna pop out!’ And eventually it did, and I just got down on it quick enough to make a save.”
Pickens parried John’s shot away with his right hand, a lunging save that kept FC Dallas at bay just long enough to give the Rapids – and Pickens – a 2-1 win and some long-awaited relief.
“I knew someone was gonna smash it,” said Pickens, who made five saves on a frigid night in Toronto. “If he hits the top corner, I’m not saving it. But because I was so low, looking for the ball and waiting for it, I was on my toes ready for that to happen.”
The save even marveled some of Pickens’ teammates, who have grown accustomed to his heroics since he joined up in 2009.
“I specifically remember being very tired,” midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said. “We were down a man, and up a goal. Dallas are putting everything into the box. I was tired, but to be a goalkeeper in 40-degree weather and to stay warm and sharp in that game and to make that save, I can’t believe he did that. In a tight game in freezing cold weather, for Matt to stay concentrated and get down low, I remember just thinking, ‘Wow!’”
Said FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman: "We had two or three chances to tie the game late, but they had some very good ‘keeping. We were very, very disappointed we lost, for sure. A year later, it’s still very, very disappointing for us.”
But for Pickens, who won the US Open Cup with the Fire in 2006, it’s a career highlight that’s helped him erase any ill-fated memories of the past.
“It’s nice, because now I’ve won two championships,” he said. “It’s just another thing you can check off the list that you always wanted to do in your career.”