By Ryan Fleming
Colorado has been there before. Dallas has not.
Dallas posted an unbeaten streak of 19 (20, if you want to count its 1-1 friendly against Inter Milan). Colorado had a mere streak of five – impressive in its own right, but not as dominating.
Come Sunday, dismiss all the numbers, all the stats, the “should-haves” and “did-nots,” and focus on the Rapids and the Hoops. No more analyzing the past, but hanging on the present as both sides battle for the MLS Cup.
For the Los Angeles Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes, it was close, but not quite close enough.
For David Beckham and the invisible Landon Donovan, they’ll have to sit back and enjoy.
Former United States Men’s National Team forward Conor Casey deserves the attention, scoring 13 goals on the season for Colorado. His striking partner Omar Cummings led the Rapids with 14.
On the other side, Jeff Cunningham and the lethal David Ferreira, the recently announced member of the All MLS XI, lifted the Hoops to their first-ever appearance in the MLS Cup Final.
Each team traveled a much different path on their way to Toronto.
The Hoops fought past Real Salt Lake, put a quality two-goal showing in Rio Tinto and manufactured another goal at home against a defense that proved stingy during the regular season.
Dallas then overcame one of the favorites to win the Cup in the Galaxy. Not only did the Hoops triumph, they left the Home Depot Center embarrassing the home side, their chins held high, knowing that they just dented the ego one of the league’s most notable teams. David Beckham, MLS Best XI midfielder Donovan and the rest of the Galaxy were woefully “outplayed,” according to the club’s coach Bruce Arena.
The Rapids had to get past the Columbus Crew on penalties, propelled by a Casey goal in the 84th minute to send the game past regulation. Following the Crew was surging San Jose and league MVP candidate Chris Wondolowski. Colorado won 1-0 thanks for a fluke goal by Kosuke Kimura, sending the Rapids to Toronto for a date with Dallas.
Colorado stuck tough, fending off wave after wave of San Jose attack, proving that they could defend as well as they could attack. Cummings and Casey deserve attention, but other Rapids players, such as Pablo Mastroeni and former New England Revolution midfielder Jeff Larentowicz, deserve a place in the mind of MLS Coach of the Year, Schellas Hyndman.
Colorado showed a sense of guile in getting the win against Columbus and grit in shutting down Wondolowski in the following round. Dallas, which seemingly beat their opposition with artistic ease despite the tougher schedule, proved worth just the same.
Whatever the outcome Sunday, one thing is unmistakable: both the Rapids and FC Dallas battled past the favorites and belong on BMO Field for a chance to own the MLS crown.
Ryan Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.