By Ryan Fleming
TORONTO, Ont — It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t pretty. But the Colorado Rapids proved to be the bully and forced themselves on the pinnacle of MLS glory with a 2-1 win over FC Dallas claiming the 2010 MLS Cup.
For more than 90 minutes, the Rapids manically forced their way up and down the field and when situations became dire, proved just resilient enough. FC Dallas and regular season MVP David Ferreira tried utilizing their positive, attack-minded game and force it on Colorado. For a little while it seemed as if the Hoops would have their way, jumping out to a 1-0 lead on a quick, line-drive cross that found a streaking Ferreira, who finished brilliantly between two Rapids center backs.
The score stood that way at halftime, but in the second half Colorado became the aggressor.
“It was physical play and the thing with physical play is it’s disruptive, so how often do you connect passes and if that was their game plan, it was perfect,” Dallas coach and manager of the year, Schellas Hyndman said of why his team couldn’t follow its game plan. “If it wasn’t their game plan, I would rather play like the way we play.”
Game MVP Conor Casey proved not only to be a threat when on the ball, but played agitator as well. When the former United States Men’s National team forward controlled the ball, he proved nearly impossible in getting it away from him, and often in the face of a Dallas defender he turned the defender inside out. A close non-call when Casey was seemingly tripped from behind in the first half, added to the drama in the latter frame.
When Casey equalized in the 57th minute, scoring from his butt when Dallas keeper Kevin Hartman and a Hoops defender got caught up with each other, he provided the Rapids with the push they needed after scrapping to no result until that point in the game. And even though for the remaining 33-plus minutes Dallas carried play into the Colorado end, Dallas never materialize any formal attack.
In extra time, substitute Macoumba Kandji found himself on the better end of a play that George John would like to forget. After nutmegging Jair Benitiz, the 25-year old Senegalese forward launched a shot in Hartman’s direction that ricocheted of John’s knee, slightly altering the course of the ball, fooling Hartman, finding its way into the back of the net.
Following the goal, Dallas pushed forward with everything they had. A string of incredible saves from Colorado keeper Matt Pickens, followed up by a ball cleared off the line by former New England Revolution midfielder Jeff Larentowicz.The Rapids weren’t going to be denied the Cup.
“We have a hard, hard working crew and it was a battle, and like it’s been all year. We kept battling it out, and it just feels like we really earned it today,” Casey said after the game. “Today our backs were against the wall for a lot of the game but we showed our resolve.”
For Casey and Pablo Mastroeni, a member of the Rapids since 2002, this win became the zenith of their accomplishments.
“First and foremost, I’ve never won anything, ever, so it’s a fantastic feeling and to do it with someone like Pablo who has had such a storied career and never won. And to give so much to the club, no one deserves it more,” Casey said.
No single player might deserve it more, but the Rapids as a team proved that they aren’t the most glamorous or talented club in the MLS, but they played the game their way – for an entire season and the most important 120 minutes of the franchise’s history.
Ryan Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.