|LA Galaxy 1||San Jose 2|
De Rosario 96'
|Did You Know?|
|Before his first MLS season with San Jose in 2001, a 23-year-old Dwayne De Rosario was already a four-year professional: He played in the A-League with the Toronto Lynx (1997) and Richmond Kickers (1999, 2000) as well as with German side FC Zwickau (1997-'98 and 1998-'99).|
#4. Super Sub (2001)
Once upon a time, MLS legend Dwayne De Rosario was not even a sure bet to start a match.
In his first season in the league back in 2001, little was known about the Canadian who bagged 15 goals for Richmond in the A-League a year earlier. But San Jose manager Frank Yallop saw enough talent to make him one of his first signings when he took over the Earthquakes. However, he decided to use DeRo’s skillset in a very particular way: off the bench.
“With DeRo, every time I didn’t play him, he’d knocked on my door the next day and ask me, ‘Why didn’t you start me?’” Yallop said. “I told him, ‘You could be one of — if not the best — sub in the league.' He was our best guy coming off the bench. I told him, ‘You change games.’ I kept him sort of believing in that a little bit and fending him off. Not sure I could’ve done that much longer.”
At MLS Cup 2001, Yallop didn’t deviate from the script that he had used for 10 other matches during that regular season – bringing De Rosario off the bench in the 85th minute as a 1-1 deadlock against the rival LA Galaxy was on the verge of sudden-death overtime.
“Before the game Frank just pulled me aside and said, ‘Listen, I’m definitely going to need you at some stage of the game, so be ready,’” De Rosario recounts. “And I was ready. I was ready.”
Six minutes into the overtime period, DeRo made his coach look like a genius, curling a stunning shot from the top of the box inside the far right post for the game-winner. It was a play that Yallop feels summed up his compatriot’s M.O. in 2001: taking early shots off the dribble.
But this goal was different. LA Galaxy defender Danny Califf participated on the play by contributing the slightest of deflections. It was enough to beat then Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman.
“It was unbelievably an absolute horrible moment,” Califf said. “It was awful. We played that game so well and to have it come off my shin guard and just barely go around Kevin’s finger tips. And he would have had it, which was so disappointing. Gosh, it was an awful way to go out.”
“My heart got stuck in my throat on that one,” said then Galaxy manager Sigi Schmid. “As he hit it, I saw it take a deflection off Califf and I remember thinking, ‘Oh, crap.’ In my mind, I knew it got enough of a deflection that it could be just out of Hartman’s reach. [The goal] came out of nothing. It was a fortunate deflection. If it didn’t hit Califf, I don’t think it was going in.”
As spectacular a curl as De Rosario applied to that shot, players on both sides point out that LA could have also done a better job to stop the shot to begin with.
“It was a great goal from their standpoint, but it was weak defending from the Galaxy,” said ex-LA defender Paul Caligiuri, who had already come out of the match by that point. “Dan Calliff was young at the time and you could just see him retreat. But if you’re a left back or a center back, you have to slide over a lot quicker than we did.”
“I always thought it was weird that, first of all, Danny Califf didn’t go out and try to pressure Dwayne a little bit more,” said then-Quakes defender Jimmy Conrad. “The worst thing you can do — and we knew that because we trained with him every day – is to give [DeRo] space to run at you. If he runs at you, you’ll get beat because he can go either way. So when Danny Califf let him pick up the ball and run at him, we were all kind of amazed. And Greg Vanney didn’t slide over as much as I thought he could have - I still needle him about that sometimes.”
There’s no need for needling. That ‘01 final still hurts the Galaxy players who experienced it. And now a decade into his MLS career, De Rosario is an equal-opportunity destroyer, crushing team dreams across MLS with his singular moments of brilliance. The Galaxy were just the first of a long list.
“That 2001 team is to this day probably the best team I’ve played on in MLS,” said then-Galaxy midfielder Peter Vagenas. “If anything, we were a bit arrogant. We had won every game in overtime [that year]. We were supremely confident in that game and when that game went to overtime, we were all over them.
“I thought it’d be our first MLS Cup and then we saw De Rosario before he was De Rosario.”