FRISCO, Texas – It takes a team to win a championship, but there can only be one MVP.
It’s clear who that player was in FC Dallas’ 4-2 US Open Cup final win over the New England Revolution on Tuesday. Mauro Diaz, a player who has been the catalyst of the FCD attack all season, had a hand in all four of his team's goals Tuesday night, assisting on three and scoring the other off a penalty kick.
“Mauro’s performance tonight was what he has done – it’s a collection of what he’s done here this year,” head coach Oscar Pareja said. “Mauro showed the heart of this club and he showed the heart of his teammates tonight.”
Diaz finished his Open Cup run with two goals and five assists, all five helpers coming in the dramatic semifinal against the LA Galaxy and the final against New England.
It’s nothing his teammates are surprised by – even in a game of this magnitude, where the Revolution had time to plot a gameplan to limit Diaz's impact.
“We knew he was going to step up his game,” fellow midfielder Victor Ulloa said. “He’s done it this year. He’s been a great leader for us. Thankfully he’s on our side.”
Added Kellyn Acosta: “He was tremendous. Same story every game for the whole year. When he’s healthy, he’s a game-changer for us. Today he showed it. He was all over the place. Defensively his work rate as well, he helped me and [Carlos] Gruezo throughout the game.”
Diaz set two Open Cup records with his highlight-reel performance: most assists (three) and most points in a USOC final (four).
“He’s just a playmaker. Every time we get him the ball you expect him to do something crazy, and he did," noted Ryan Hollingshead. "He came through huge for us. That’s what you need out of your No. 10, out of your captain. He stepped up really well.”
Pareja has rotated the FCD captain's armband among different players this season, and on Tuesday Diaz skippered the side. Fittingly enough, he found Matt Hedges, who has played the most games as captain over the last two seasons, for Dallas' crucial second goal.
“The boys wanted to win, and Mauro led them,” Pareja said. “I’m very happy for him, because that’s the standard he can leave here with this club as a legacy.”
But Diaz didn’t want to credit himself, instead praising the coaching staff for creating an environment that allows every player to compete for roster spots every day, whether young or old.
“It’s very important Oscar and the rest of the staff put the team together and give the confidence to the young players and veterans,” Diaz said via translator. “It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old – he’ll give you a chance or put you in. And that’s what we like – that’s why there’s such a chemistry with this team.”
He added that “things are falling together” for the franchise now with their first trophy since 1997, when the club was still known as the Dallas Burn.
And Pareja knows his team is in good hands to pursue bigger things throughout the season with Diaz at the helm, both pulling the strings and leading by example.