TORONTO – The Colorado Rapids’ MLS Cup-winning goal on Sunday will be a play that will forever go down in finals lore.
Although the 107th-minute strike came on an own-goal, the courageous lunge by Rapids forward Macoumba Kandji that led to the deflection will be the lasting image of a Colorado team that gave every ounce of effort to pull out its first league title.
WATCH: Full match highlights
Kandji had come on just nine minutes prior to replace an injured Omar Cummings, who suffered a thigh strain on a play in the first half of overtime.
The former New York Red Bulls striker collected a pass from teammate Conor Casey on the right side of the penalty area. Kandji then bypassed Dallas defender Jair Benitez with a nutmeg before stretching forward to beat FC Dallas center back Ugo Ihemelu to the ball. He got there first, but paid the consequences as Ihemelu crashed into him, buckling Kandji’s leg with the impact.
As Kandji lay writhing on the ground, the ball took a bounce off FCD defender George John’s thigh and past goalkeeper Kevin Hartman for a 2-1 lead.
“If you look at the replay, his leg bows and it almost breaks,” Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens said. “I thought he broke his leg.”
“I had to look away,” Colorado midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said. “I thought he broke his femur. The way he kept falling down, I thought it must be broken or something must be wrong. But we’re all happy he did exactly what he did.”
WATCH: Kandji's game-winning play
After the match, Kandji said he believed he would be diagnosed with a hyperextended left knee. And while the swelling was noticeable, only an MRI will provide the full extent of the injury. On the trainer’s table he also had a bandage around his shin.
“I got up after the goal to try to celebrate and fell back down,” Kandji said. “At first I thought I broke my leg. I thought I will see my bone popping out. Thank God it’s not that.”
In the meantime, he’s not making excuses for how the ball went into the back of the net.
“[I don’t feel] bad at all,” Kandji said. “I’m a striker. I try to take shots and it doesn’t matter how it goes in. And I took that shot and he happened to be on my way to knock it in. So thank you to [John].”
While speaking to his family and reading texts from former Red Bulls teammates Joel Lindpere and Jeremy Hall, Kandji was still stewing about the fact that FCD bench players were accusing him of feigning injury.
“That’s why I was fighting with them,” he said. “I don’t think I would just try to lay on the field to waste time. I would love to go at [Dallas] more and hopefully get another goal.”
All in all, an eventful nine minutes for the 25-year-old, who despite collecting just four starts since the September trade and nine minutes on the night, continues to leave positive impressions with his new teammates.
“He’s a skillful and very good player putting himself in the right spot,” defender Drew Moor said of Kandji. “He did what he needed to do and he’s a hero tonight.”