Major League Soccer
US Soccer

Cup joy for Chico

Dec 11, 2013

PRO referee Hilario Grajeda has admitted his assignment to the MLS Cup is finally starting to sink in, now that the all-important match is over.

The Ohio-based official was blowing the whistle for the 24th time this season at Sporting Park, where Sporting Kansas City downed Real Salt Lake 7-6 in a penalty shootout, following a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.

The match wasn't Grajeda's first taste of the MLS Cup - he has twice been assigned as 4th official, in 2011 and 2012 – but his previous experiences didn't lessen the occasion of being the center official.

Chico told “I enjoyed it from the first whistle and now, after the match, I'm starting to realize the scale of my achievement - that I refereed the MLS Cup.

“Fewer than 20 people have done it so I’m very fortunate to be one of those.

“Prior to the match, the build-up was great, then I started getting nervous as we prepared to travel to the stadium. 

“But, once we got out there, it was a great feeling. When I was blowing the whistle I was looking up to the stands, still thinking that I couldn’t believe I was there, refereeing the MLS Cup.”

Grajeda was kept busy during the 120 minutes of action in front of 21,650 passionate spectators, and handed out a modest five yellow cards, taking his season's tally to 68 – 2.8 per match.

The official insisted he maintained the same principles for the Cup that he has adopted throughout the campaign, including wearing the same short-sleeved shirt he has worn for every game, despite the cold Kansas City conditions. 

Reflecting on the inaugural year under PRO, the 46-year-old believes the consistency behind the scenes has helped him have a successful season, but he will continue to take each assignment as it comes.

“The whole year wasn’t a rollercoaster like previous years. It was a steady climb, learning new things along the way.

“Perhaps not every game was great but I learned something from each and every official I worked alongside.

“I make the most of every assignment because I’m getting up there in age, I always think, ‘what if this is my last game?’

“That helped me enjoy every match and I can’t believe I’ve closed it with the MLS Cup.

“I’m going to take a little time off and go on holiday but then it’s back to business. Because I’m very competitive, I will go for a second MLS Cup assignment.”

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