Colorado Rapids wins MLS Cup

It was about fortune favoring the brave and poetic justice as the Colorado Rapids survived a nail-biter to defeat FC Dallas, 2-1, to win its first MLS Cup.

Macumba Kandji, traded late in the season from the New York Red Bulls to Colorado Rapids, came into the game as a late substitute for Rapids Omar Cummings at the 110th minute and bravely took on the FC Dallas defence. As he rounded a defender, falling to the ground, he toe-poked the ball toward the goal for a deflection off Dallas player George John that steered the ball into the FC Dallas goal for the winner at BMO Field in Toronto on Sunday night.

Conor Casey, left off the U. S. World Cup team this past summer after helping it to qualify, came away with the MLS Cup MVP award for scoring the tying goal with his brawny, persistent play. For Pablo Mastroeni, the Colorado captain and arguably the best American defensive midfielder in MLS and another who was overlooked by men’s national team coach, Bob Bradley, for the World Cup, it must have been tremendously satisfying.

Colorado was the underdog going into to the championship game against the much-fancied F.C. Dallas, which had a Cinderella season: an MLS record home unbeaten streak of 19 games; led by MLS all-time leading scorer Jeff Cunningham and the 2010 MLS MVP, David Ferreira, whose goal in the 36th minute gave FC Dallas the 1-0 lead before Casey’s equalized in the 56th; and having the MLS coach of the Year Schellas Hyndman on the bench.

Sadly, the season didn’t have that Cinderella ending – Dallas did not walk away with the MLS Cup. Instead, Kandji, Casey, Mastroeni and company celebrated with the prize.

The game was well played, with Dallas getting the edge on possession. The Western Conference champion Dallas, which defeated the star-studded Los Angles Galaxy to reach the championship game, fought to the end. After regulation time ended with the game tied at a goal apiece, the teams battled through the first of two 15 minute overtime periods; then five minutes into the second overtime, Kandji worked his magic, coupled with his fortuitous effort, and made the difference for Colorado.

There were other Rapids heroes such as goalkeeper Matt Pickens, who was forced to come up with a game-saving effort that thwarted a shot on goal from George with about one minute to play; then there was defender Drew Moore, whose last-gasp clearance off the goal line helped to preserve the win. Cummings ran out of steam after a strong effort and Jeff Lowrentowitz, who played alongside Mastroeni in midfield, was steady throughout the game.

Cunningham, surprisingly, was not called on until late in the game as a replacement for midfielder Brek Shea, but Dallas got solid efforts from forward Atiba Harris and midfielder Daniel Hernandez, who lost two previous MLS Cup matches as a member of the New England Revolution. George was steady on defense, but his unfortunate mistake was the difference between victory and defeat.

MLS Names Best Eleven

MLS announced its 2010 Best XI, which pays tribute to the league’s best 11 players for the past season. Members of the media, players, coaches and general managers vote for the players: one goalkeeper, three defenders, five midfielders and two forwards.

Only two players – LA Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan and Toronto FC midfielder Dwayne De Rosario – are repeats to the team. Rosario is a five-time honoree and Donovan was three times honored. The squad: MLS 2010 goalkeeper of the year Donovan Ricketts of the Galaxy; best defender of the year, Jamison Olave from Real Salt Lake and teammate Nat Borchers, also on defense is Omar Gonzalez of the Galaxy; in midfield is Donovan, De Rosario, Ferreira, Sebastian Le Toux of Philadelphia and Javier Morales of Real Salt Lake; the forwards are Chris Wondolowski of San Jose Earthquakes and Edson Buddle of LA Galaxy.

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