Image: The Toronto v Montreal crew, including Corey Rockwell (far right)
The greatest night in MLS Cup Playoffs history?
Toronto FC versus Montreal Impact – BMO Field – Wednesday, November 30, 2016.
No one will ever forget the night; a special night in which Toronto FC secured their first ever MLS Cup appearance with a record 7-5 aggregate victory over the Montreal Impact.
“I did not want the game to end,” PRO assistant referee Corey Rockwell said, when reflecting on the rain-soaked match, which was played out in front of 36,000 spectators.
It was an unforgettable night for those four men, just as it was for the players and fans in red, and everyone watching at home.
“I didn’t feel my tired legs, didn’t notice my rain-soaked uniform, or realize the freezing temperatures because we had something special going on at BMO Field that night and that just fueled my adrenaline,” Rockwell added.
A rollercoaster of a game, Toronto midfielder Michael Bradley described it as 10 years of emotion coming out in one night.
As for the officials, they remained focused, but savoured the moment. They’re humans, after all.
“Before kickoff I did my fast sprint routine to the goal as I always do to check the nets, but while running from the net to my line, I stopped just to look around and enjoy the moment and the atmosphere,” Rockwell reflected.
“It gave me chills and that last moment of motivation.
“I continued to my AR position, did my jump routine, and unfurled my flag, Jair blew the whistle, and it was all business from that moment until the final whistle in the 120th minute.”
It was 120 minutes of drama, but attention now turns to the showdown on December 10, when Major League Soccer will crown its 2016 champion.
Toronto FC versus Seattle Sounders will be refereed by Alan Kelly. The fourth official is Allen Chapman, while the fifth official is Danny Thornberry. The ARs are Frank Anderson and Joe Fletcher, and Rockwell reserved best wishes for his colleagues.
He is also thrilled for the supporters of both clubs.
“I am most excited for the fans of Seattle and Toronto as this is their first opportunity to win the Cup.
“I have great friends in these cities and interact with passionate supporters of these teams who follow me on Twitter. I am thrilled they have a chance for their team to lift the Cup.
“I wish the whole PRO crew the best, but I am closest to my fellow AR colleagues Frank and Joe. This is so fantastic for them as Frank is getting his first Cup and Joe will be refereeing close to home and his family.
“I could not be happier for these two and they are most deserving of this assignment. They will show on Saturday exactly why they were selected to be on the Final.”
As for Rockwell, he will now focus on the off-season. Rest will be minimal, though, as he will maintain his fitness in preparation for the first MLS Training Camp of 2017, in January, and his first international assignment, which is marked on the calendar in early February.
But he can reflect on what has been a productive year, capped off by a memorable night in Toronto.
“It was a good 2016 for me.”
“I had assignments at the Copa America Centenario and in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, I attended the CONCACAF Elite AR Clinic, and had solid performances in MLS games during the regular and postseason.
“I work mostly with Jair [Marrufo, referee] and we had many memorable games together this year, but the Playoff game in Toronto is the one we wanted to exceed and give our best performance.
“I would argue it was one of the greatest nights in PRO’s history, as well as MLS Cup Playoffs history. The storyline after the game was entertaining play, the intensity, the seven goals, and the electric atmosphere.
“When we look back on our 2016 season, this is the game we will remember for all the right reasons. This is the game that will be stuck in our heads until we step back onto the field together in 2017.”