FC Dallas forward Jeff Cunningham claimed the 2009 Budweiser Golden Boot awarded to the League’s top goal scorer at the end of the regular season. After scoring a career-high 17 goals in 2009, Cunningham joins Taylor Twellman, Carlos Ruiz, Stern John and Roy Lassiter as two-time Golden Boot winners.
Cunningham edged Colorado Rapids forward Conor Casey (16 goals) for the title. His 17- goal total surpassed his previous career-high of 16 goals, which he accomplished twice – with Real Salt Lake in 2006 and the Columbus Crew in 2002. Cunningham’s 16-goal campaign in 2006 earned him the Golden Boot.
Now, here’s Sigi thanks to the team:
On playing Houston Dynamo in first round of playoffs:
“It’s obviously nice to know who you are going to play against and this will allow us to begin our preparation. Houston is a quality team. They have been here year after year for the last three or four years and eventually if you want to win the championship you have to beat whoever is thrown in front of you. They are the ones that are there and they’re our challenge.”
On Houston’s physicality: “They are a team that is competitive and they battle and they have been through a lot of big games as a unit and they don’t give things up easily. So physically they are a strong team. They have got some good size and they have got people who play the game to its full extent in a physical manner. I think we are up for those challenges and it’s just one of those things that happen. In the playoffs as a rule of the game it gets a little more physical, not dirty just a little more physical.”
On aggregate goals format: “It’s sort of like one big long game except you are playing the first half of the game in Seattle and the second half of the game in Houston. That’s a little bit of the way I look at it. You can’t really break down the game individually as much as you have to break down games as part of a unit. If you get behind in the first game you keep plugging away and just know that you have an entire second half to play in another city.”
On preparation for playoffs: “Our routine is going to be pretty similar. I think it’s very important when you get ready for the playoffs that it’s just a game. The result means a lot more and it’s do or die time. But in terms of the preparation and the way you go about it, we will prepare the same way we have all season.”
On previous matches against Houston this season: “Each game is a mutually exclusive event. The only time it isn’t is if something similar happens. If we jump onto an early lead or if we score late maybe we will have a little bit of déjà vu or something like that. They are mutually exclusive events. In the [U.S.] Open Cup different players were on the field than were in the MLS games. It was a different time of the year when we played them in July. When we went back there and played in August, time has passed and they have changed their personnel a little bit and we changed our starting personnel a little bit.”
On approach to playoffs: “What’s really helpful to us is having done what we did in the U.S. Open Cup. Even though that is not the MLS playoffs it is still a knockout competition. So having had that success to build upon in pressure situations we realized we have been in do or die and knockout games and we have been able to come out on top. We have also had a couple of road games, especially after we lost to New England, where it was we have to get some points back and we were able to respond to that and win some games. We have to rely on those experiences that we have had for ourselves this year and the Open Cup. The long run that we had in the Open Cup is really going to benefit us. That was a little bit of a payoff-like competition that will help us.”
On approach to team’s first playoff game: “My concerns are just when you are at home first you want to get a good result. Some teams put too much pressure on themselves when they are at home for the first game. They push the envelope too quickly and all of a sudden they put themselves in a bad situation. It’s important that we approach the game in an orderly fashion. […] It’s like I said earlier, you approach it like it’s one big long game with the first 90 minutes in Seattle and the second 90 minutes in another city. You want to make sure they understand that but I think our guys have fought through some battles. The veteran players like [Kasey] Keller and [Freddie] Ljungberg along with some other veterans like [Tyrone] Marshall and [Peter] Vagenas that have been through it in this league are going to be able to share some experiences and be able to get guys relaxed as we go into our first game.”
On playing first game in Seattle: “It’s definitely not disadvantageous for us because they have to travel back [from L.A. to Houston] and then travel out here so that messes with their time a little bit. It’s that time of the year when it’s the playoffs and it’s sort of like players suck it up and move on. If you have to fly back and train on the same day then it’s like let’s get this done because we are in the playoffs. If we have to get up early to fly then just take care of it because it’s the playoffs. So I think players sort of have that attitude this time of year.”
On adopting home and home format throughout MLS Cup Playoffs: “I’m a guy who would probably like home and home all the way through the MLS Championship, including the championship game. We have a one off championship which I know they do in the Champions League as well and of course they do it in American football. But the other sports, basketball, baseball, hockey, they all basically play a home and home. I think our sport is still young enough in this country where maybe a home and home in the finals makes sense and do it that way. I’m definitely not an opponent of the home and home.”