Gutsy play helps Rapids become MLS Cup champions

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BY ADAM SERRANO

TORONTO – Destiny, grit and determination. The words that have come to symbolize the 2010 season for the MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids. 

The Rapids captured their first MLS Cup trophy with a 2-1 victory over FC Dallas in extra time preserving the Rocky Mountain dominance of the trophy. After going down early due to a wonder goal by MLS MVP David Ferreira, the Rapids could have very well folded, but rather continued to battle. 

The Rapids scored their first on a second effort from Conor Casey in the early second half and after the match went to extra time, Mac Kandji fired a shot that deflected off George John and into the back of the net. Although the Rapids had only come from behind just once in their season, the tireless effort helped them achieve their ultimate goal.

"It was a battle all over the field, there wasn't one loose ball that wasn't contested and that suits a team like us that battles every game and every play" said Rapids captain Pablo Mastroeni. "Grit is a great word to use to describe the amount of work that we had to to put in to overcome late in this match."

Mastroeni and his midfield partner Jeff Larentowicz were vital in working to regain control of midfield after Dallas went up in the first half. Although FCD dominated the run of play, the Rapids midfield and defense was able to hold with a number of key saves and clearances. With Larentowicz playing a box to box role, the Rapids were able to build up a strong counter attack that led to Casey's goal. The match held until the 107th minute when Mac Kandji became the hero. 

Kandji, who had been traded during midseason away from the Red Bulls entered the match for less than five minutes, but was able to make the vital impact. Immediately after coming on for Omar Cummings, the forward sliced through the Dallas defense and fired a shot that bounced off John and past Hartman for the winning goal. However, on the play, Kandji sustained an injury after Dallas defender Ugo Ihemelu fell on the forward's leg, knocking him out of the match and forced Colorado to clinch the cup down to ten men. 

"To be honest with you, it is the best kind of injury I ever had in my life," Kandji said. "Right now I am trying to enjoy that trophy over there, these guys over here. This injury, we'll see in a couple of days how it feels."

With the trophy clinched and the trophy remaining in the Rocky Mountains, the focus turns to a rivalry that has produced the last two champions. The Rapids have come up short in the last three Rocky Mountain affairs, but according to Cummings, the draw to Real Salt Lake on the final season, was a blessing in disguise. On that day, the Rapids avoided the higher seeded Western Conference for the East and set off to face a Columbus team that has had issues in years past.

“When we drew RSL on the last minute of the season, in that same day [Columbus Crew Goalkeeper Will ] Hesmer got hurt and [head coach Gary Smith] said that this must be destiny," said Cummings. "When Hesmer went down, we knew that he was one of the best goalkeeepers in the league so we started to wonder, is this destiny? I We never lost confidence and we proved that it was our time.”

Colorado will now attempt to build on the momentum of an MLS Cup triumph in the city of Denver, but look set to lose as many as two players in the expansion draft on Thursday. For all the praise for coming to the Rapids for their ability to stay afloat and continue to persevere throughout the season, for Pickens, it was nothing but vintage Rapids.

“That grit and determination is typical Colorado Rapids and now we’re being rewarded for it with the MLS Cup trophy for the first time in club history. "

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38 Responses to Gutsy play helps Rapids become MLS Cup champions

  1. Leo says:

    Freddy Adu.

    Listen, can we start discussing El Clasico already?

  2. Hincha Tim says:

    All I know is it was a downer of a final for me. Terrible soccer (if you can call it that), it looked like kiddy rec league ball for most of the game. I understand that many finals are tactical bores but this was just terrible technically. It was one team kicking the ball to the other team. The seemingly (at least on TV) half empty stands the entire night were embarrassing. And the commish’s muched hyped halftime announcement was underwhelming, to say the least. Put the final in the highest seed’s stadium. Don’t go to a European schedule. I don’t feel like watching soccer in 20 degree weather in SLC. And don’t go to 10 teams in the playoffs.

  3. StevenG says:

    Grit and determination? I enjoyed their enthusiasm, but could they have tried to calm down a little last night and maybe attempt to complete more than three passes at a time? It seem liked half the time they had trouble just trapping the ball.

  4. Jesse says:

    That was an ugly win. I was impartial going in, but found myself rooting for Dallas because they tried to play with some rhythm and style. Pickens came up unbelievably big.

    I feel for John, that game is going to haunt him for a while. He played really well, but the deflection/own goal followed by almost becoming the hero with a great shot that Pickens stood on his head to save. Rough outing.

  5. RB says:

    Nice piece.

    Don’t imagine it’s going to change the views of the many disgruntled here, but thanks. :-)

  6. What is that horrible smell? says:

    More like lucky play…….. MLS really showed how good they were last night, pleasssssseeee……

  7. john.q says:

    not sure if i agree with aligning MLS to the international schedule. With the majority of teams in MLS playing in cold climates do we really want heavily snowed-on games, with people not showing simply because its waaay to cold. Also for the teams still playing in American Football stadiums we would have lines on the field all season as well as more scheduling conflicts with the NFL.
    As it stands now for the most part MLS only competes with baseball. A fall to spring scheduale will put soccer against the NFL, NBA, and euro soccer. not good, plus i like have year-round soccer on TV!
    if fixture congestion is the problem expand the roster sizes and get rid of superliga for starters.

  8. Dave says:

    If US Soccer and the MLS want the US to move toward fast technical soccer, they need to insist that referees enforce infringement. Colorado deserved the win with the current referees, but with prototypical high school “bigger faster stronger” tactics. The referees seem to swallow the whistle the further the more important the game (as in the finals of the WC, so this isn’t a US only problem)
    As long as strength negates skill, the kind of technical ability we want to grow will be stunted.

    The football “just let em play” attitude also translates to “the team that cheats the most wins”.

  9. Second City says:

    Toledo wasn’t he usual card spraying self last night and that’s disappointing considering the disgraceful dessent from both clubs towards the ref every three seconds.

    Cup final or not the amount of shoving – ball kicking to interrupt set pieces and the flow of play was embarrassing.

  10. James Foster Bryant says:

    MLS Playoffs = Spoiled leftovers at dinner time. I’m a Chicago Fire fan, but they really shouldv’e just given LA the league title because they had the best record over the 30-game season. The MLS Cup is just a tournament with an additional 4-5 undeserving teams getting a shot at undesrved glory, therefore making the MLS look like a “Mickey Mouse” League where everyone’s dreams may come true if they wish upon a star, like Julian Baudet did last night.

  11. k says:

    that game was pathetic and bully shoving and fighting and fouling is not gutsy play. another poor showing by mls on what should have been a great game. that worthless ref should have shown red cards to both teams in the first half and forced them to play soccer instead of that ugly street kick ball game.

  12. Second City says:

    Agreed

    That performance didn’t exactly inspire the word gutsy when I watched it or reflect upon it now.

    CLUMSY…perhaps

  13. alex says:

    Agreed, Toledo failed to manage the game.

    I’m from Toronto but disapointed with our own showing. Frankly the league and TFC can take the blame 50/50 on this one. Zero promotion was done prior to this game, the efforts to sell tickets were restricted to forcing them on season seat holders. If you bought tickets through the boxoffice the prices were extortionate. The cheapest seat i could find was $80. The game competed with several local sporting events on the same day but the worst thing about this whole deal was an 8:30 pm start time on a sunday night in november. What were they thinking?

  14. rory says:

    Who gives a crap about one of two meetings in a league an ocean away when we have the crowning moment of our league? Seriously… there will be plenty of time to find out which of the two Spanish superpowers win the league next Spring.

    Sheeeshhh!

  15. Paul C says:

    Glad to hear it from a local. Those were all things I/We were assuming. Like you said, looked like the blame was 50/50 on this one.

  16. Rory says:

    The stadium atmosphere sucked, but this was a far more compelling game throughout than many recent final matches. That flurry of Dallas activity at the end of the game about caused my heart to stop.

  17. Rory says:

    Cold weather, crap field, big game nerves. What did you expect, Arsenal torching Braga?

  18. Rory says:

    Agreed that John was very unfortunate… would have happened to anyone who was standing there. I even wonder if his eyes weren’t looking at the ref to see if there was a call for Kandji’s collapse or the contact on Kandji’s foot. Hartman’s steps out of the goalface on the toe poke was unfortunate too.

    If “sticktoitiveness” was a word it should be emboidered on the back of the Rapid’s jerseys.

  19. Leo says:

    If cold weather, a lackluster crowd, terrible officiating, and play that looked more like an 11 v 11 UFC brawl was the “crowning moment of our league”…

    I dunno, dude, maybe it’s time to bring the NASL back. Just sayin’.

  20. rory says:

    Funny, I thought if the refs blew the whistle more often last night that Colorado would have had an early PK and Dallas would have had four yellows in the first half (and Casey and Mastoeni would have had two for Colorado). I thought Dallas was the more aggressive players as far as uncalled fouls went.

  21. Rory says:

    He must have gone to the Howard Webb school of Final’s officiating.

    And I was really sick of McCarty’s constant pleading for yellow cards, which was rich considering his faked injury against RSL might have won them that series.

  22. rory says:

    While they’re at it they should have given LA your historic expansion year title there Chicago Fan as they won the supporter’s shield that year too.

  23. RB says:

    I imagine they were thinking “weekend but avoid Saturday college football, Saturday night hockey/basketball and Sunday NFL” action. Which pretty much leaves you Sunday night.

    I’m not saying I like it, either, I’m just saying it’s not so illogical…

  24. RB says:

    You say tomAYto, you know…

    Hardly clumsy to score a goal around a couple of guys from a seated, near-prone position, or to make a great win-preserving save with only minutes to spare, or to make an amazing win-preserving clearance off the line with even less time to spare, when your keeper has no chance at it. The latter 2 moves while playing a man down (and due not to some sort of stupidity or harsh play on your part that got your man ejected, but to injury on another gutsy play). Hardly clumsy when your back line constantly takes out of the air virtually every ball the offense tries to lift into the area, and gets in front of any number of other attempts nearer the ground.

  25. RB says:

    And that’s not to mention Larentowicz’ spectacular near-goal from some distance off that free kick, against the hottest keeper in the league. Clumsy?

  26. Second City says:

    Yes – Clumsy. What game were you watching?

    I’m all for being positive for the sake of being positive but you’re taking the glass half full view to an unprecedented level guy

  27. buff111 says:

    Question: what last night’s game MLS or WWE? I’m leaning toward WWE. This game had kicks, trips and body slams. The crowd, oh boy, what crowd???? Whose brilliant idea was it to have a game in Canada in November???? He obviously didn’t go to any Eistein training academies. If the commissioner wants to have a European schedule here, he’s crazy. MLS can compete with baseball. Baseball isn’t a growing sport, and soccer is. To compete with college football, NFL, NHL (in some parts of the continent), college basketball, and play in 3 feet of snow and zero degree weather is a loser. If he does this, kiss MLS goodbye. It won’t work. Also, the commissioner has to come up with a better answer on where to have the final game. Canada is a great place, but not for soccer in November.

  28. alex says:

    There’s always someone to complete with but I can understand from a TV POV why they would want the game on a Sunday night.

    Unfortunately, for attendance purposes Toronto in November is the wrong place to make that happen if you want the late time slot.

  29. buff111 says:

    sorry misspelled Einstein.

  30. RB says:

    I was watching the one in which the events I noted above took place. Did you miss those? It sorta sounds like it, even though they were quite prominent in the game.

    Now, I didn’t _no_ play in the game was clumsy. You just said “the performance was clumsy”. None of those key aspects of the performance were clumsy. So I think I’m offering a half-full view in response to your empty view, more like it.

    But as I say, you say tomAYto… :-)

  31. Mike says:

    On the proposal to switch to the international schedule, no one here commenting seems to be taking into account the weather ADVANTAGES. Part of the problem in support for Dallas and (during the midseason) Houston is obviously the awful summer weather. If there was an August-May schedule, cold weather teams, especially Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, New York and New England could have the majority of their home games early and late into the season. In November, early December and February (after a winter break from near Christmas through January) teams like Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles (which have lovely weather that time of year) and even relatively snow-free places like Portland and Seattle could have their home games against the northern teams. This would also make locating in markets like Atlanta, North Carolina, Tampa and Miami more tempting in the long run. Of course it’s directly completing against the NFL, NBA, March Madness and the NHL and that’s the REAL problem.

  32. Tomas says:

    It was a very physical game, but the players did what the ref allowed. Soccer is known as the Beautiful Game, but the finals of tournaments are rarely beautiful; players get hyped up, get tight, tons of nerves, and that does not lend itself to free-flowing, attacking football. Think of the WC final where you had some brilliant footballers playing ugly, but leaving it all out on the pitch. Last year’s Champions League Final was not a clinic on fluid play, either.

    The NBA is fun to watch when the play is high-flying, fast-breaking action, but the Finals are more often won by the grittier team, when the creative play is neutralized by prepared defenses.

    So, in a word, don’t expect a work of art in a final. Last night was hell of entertaining, though.

  33. Dave says:

    Casey would not gotten a PK after he threw the defender to the ground. The defender then leg whipped him, but the first foul was on Casey.

  34. Craig says:

    Did you really compare last nights slugfest with last yr’s UEFA champions league final?

    All joking aside, Dallas seemed like the team that were willing to play good soccer, chavez and ferriera played really well. Only, luck was not on their side.

  35. greenlightwilly says:

    You’re obviously not spending enough time at those Saturday kiddy rec-leagues. …don’t give up your day job, Hincha baby.

  36. greenlightwilly says:

    That’s the third time in this place I’ve seen a whine that the obvious foul was prefaced by an even MORE OBVIOUS FOUL – which is clear on all the replays DID NOT HAPPEN. …look, it didn’t end up working for Rove so just give up on that re-writin’ history thing.

  37. greenlightwilly says:

    …never actually played the game yourself, huh?

  38. greenlightwilly says:

    Thought you were leaving ‘all joking aside’? Yes, Dallas may have been ‘willing’ but their flesh turned out to be pretty weak. Colorado showed up to play and they won the came. Don’t blame FCD’s unpreparedness on a lack of luck because they had plenty of chances to score. Maybe they should talk to Mac Kandji who knows how to make luck.