The 2010 World Cup in Africa was where every professional soccer player wanted to be this summer. Colorado Rapids’ forward Conor Casey and FC Dallas’ defender Heath Pearce had both featured prominently for the United States National Team during the four-year cycle, but both were left off the squad.
Pearce was one of the final seven players cut from the squad, while Casey didn’t even make the final 30.
Both players took the news hard, but they worked even harder to propel their club teams to new heights. Now, four months after the tournament ended and the Americans were ousted in the Round of 16, Casey and Pearce have led their teams to the MLS Cup.
“It was tough when it all went down at the beginning of the season and it took me a while to get back to pace,” Casey recently told the media.
Pearce was not only disappointed in getting cut, but he had an issue with the way he was cut, saying in an interview with The Dallas Morning News in late-June, “… To have your hand shook and be told, at 2 o'clock in the morning, ‘We know you've been working hard, but we're releasing you,’ isn’t the easiest way to understand and embrace why you’re not going to the World Cup.”
Both were snubbed from the team, but they let their play in MLS do the talking as to why they were deserving of spots on the roster.
Following the World Cup preliminary roster announcement, Casey has scored 10 goals in 20 games, finishing sixth in MLS with 13 goals for the season. He also added six assists.
Pearce helped transform the FC Dallas defense. In 2009 the team allowed a league-worst 47 goals, but in 2010 they surrendered only 28. Not only was Pearce an important piece to the defense, but he also finished second on the team with six assists, showcasing his abilities to defend and also get forward into the attack.
Their production exemplifies their talent, resiliency and professionalism. It would have been easy for each to hang his head, but they took getting overlooked in stride and gave their clubs the best they had to offer.
No player from the U.S. team that plays in MLS, including defender Jonathan Bornstein and forwards Edson Buddle and Robbie Findley—Pearce and Casey’s direct competition—is playing in Sunday’s championship game.
It may not be the World Cup, but these two players can be proud of their contributions to their teams in guiding them to the MLS Cup final.