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. "