By ADAM SERRANO
The day has finally arrived. Two teams and just one trophy.
By the end of the night, Major League Soccer will have its new champion, the journey that has been the 2010 season will be complete and either the Colorado Rapids or FC Dallas will earn the first MLS Cup in team history. Both clubs arrived in Canada having used an underdog mentality to reach the final, but on Sunday night neither team enters as a clear-cut favorite.
Dallas has been led by MLS MVP David Ferreira, who spearheads the attack and pulled the strings in midfield during FCD's 3-0 demolishing of the Los Angeles Galaxy in the Western Conference final. In addition to the clutch play of Ferreira, goalkeeper Kevin Hartman is riding an incredible hot streak and has come up with a number of clutch saves to keep Dallas in matches.
The Rapids are led by their scoring tandem of Omar Cummings and Conor Casey. Scoring 27 of the club's goals this season, the duo earns a considerable amount of attention from the Rapids opposition. They are supported by the midfield tandem of Jeff Larentowicz and Pablo Mastroeni. The pair provides the mix of midfield bite and attacking prowess that makes Colorado a dangerous team on the counter. The MLS Cup appearance is the first for Mastroeni, who has spent nine years with the Rapids.
Here is a closer look at the MLS Cup final:
COLORADO RAPIDS vs. FC DALLAS
8:30 p.m., ESPN
KEY MATCHUPS TO WATCH
David Ferreira vs. Pablo Mastroeni
This battle between MLS MVP and longtime MLS star that should decide which team will take home its first MLS Cup. Ferreira succeeded in bringing down the Galaxy's midfield tandem of Juninho and Dema Kovalenko, but he will face perhaps one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS history in Mastroeni. Ferreira has been influential throughout the playoffs and will look to spread the ball to the flanks in an attempt to stretch the Dallas defense. Mastroeni, along with midfield partner Jeff Larentowicz, will be vital in disrupting the FC Dallas attack while also starting Rapids counterattacks.
Conor Casey and Omar Cummings vs. George John and Ugo Ihemelu
John and Ihemelu were instrumental in stopping Edson Buddle during the Western Conference final, but they will face a different challenge with Casey and Cummings. As has been the case throughout the season, the Rapids attack will be reliant on Casey's physicality up top and ability to score in the air to complement the speed and athleticism of Cummings. John will likely be responsible to check Casey with his skill in the air while the versatile Ihemelu will attempt to keep up with the speedy Cummings.
Kevin Hartman vs. Matt Pickens
It is in a match like a final that the role of goalkeeper becomes more important than any other. Pickens has flown under the radar throughout the weekend with a considerable amount of attention going to Hartman. The wily veteran has come up with clutch saves time and time again during the playoffs and enters the final on an incredible hot streak. While Hartman has been flashy, Pickens has been steady in goal and limited the mistakes that have cost him in the past. With both teams evenly matched, the possibility of penalty kicks could leave the match to the two goalkeepers.
For the Rapids, the play of Jeff Larentowicz has been vital leading Colorado to MLS Cup. Coupled with Mastroeni in the midfield, Larentowicz will be concerned with stopping David Ferreira, who has been instrumental leading the Dallas attack. In addition to his responsibilities in defense, Larentowicz's skill passing and set-piece proficiency will be vital as the Rapids attempt to start counterattacks and link with Casey and Cummings up front. The midfielder has also been a threat going forward and scored both goals for the Rapids during their 2-2 tie with Dallas in October.
Dax McCarty represents one of the keys to victory for FC Dallas. The midfielder has been a box-to-box threat with his tireless workrate, which has aided Dallas during its playoff run. McCarty has impressed moving forward when opposing defenses collapse on Ferreira, which has opened up opportunities to connect with the attack. Against Colorado, McCarty and his partner in midfield Daniel Hernandez will likely have a great number of opportunities to cause havoc on the Rapids with the attention focused on the MVP.
The forecast for BMO Field is calling for rain to fall in the Toronto area with 41-degree temperatures at kick off. Colorado will be more familiar with the frigid temperatures, and weather may play a role late in the match. The match will come down to the play of David Ferreira for Dallas and Omar Cummings for the Rapids, both are creative players who work well on the counter. The match looks to be one with a great deal of offense and should be a back-and-forth affair.
Do you think the MLS Cup stay in the Rocky Mountains? Or do you see FC Dallas bringing home its first-ever MLS Cup to Frisco?
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