Photos by ISIphotos.com
By JOSE M. ROMERO
TORONTO – The long and illustrious careers of two of the most prolific scorers in Major League Soccer history collide Sunday when the Colorado Rapids' Conor Casey and FC Dallas' Jeff Cunningham battle with their respective clubs for the league championship.
Neither player — though both highly decorated — has ever played in the MLS Cup final. Casey's 42 career goals, all of which have been scored since he joined the Rapids in April, 2007, is a Colorado franchise record. Cunningham, who has played for five MLS teams since 1998, is second on the all-time goals list in MLS history with 132, one behind Jaime Moreno.
"I just want to win period," Casey said. "It doesn't really matter. A title would mean a lot for a lot of people, for me in particular."
The key for the Rapids, Casey said, is trying to maintain possession of the ball and dictate the pace of the game.
Cunningham, who refused to speak to the media leading up to the game battled Casey for the Golden Boot Award as MLS goals leader last season, edging his Colorado counterpart, 17-16, for the prize.
"This is fantastic for Jeff," FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman said. "Every player wants to be the Golden Boot winner. He also wants a championship for himself, for the team, for his family. We got a lot out of Jeff this year. We all know that when Jeff's at his best, he's unstoppable."
The window for Cunningham could be closing soon. He's 34, although one would think he'd play next season so he could go for the all-time goals record.
"Definitely a lot of respect for him," Casey said of Cunningam. "He's a great goal-scorer."
Cunningham and Casey have a few things in common. They've both been capped by the United States men's national team, they've both scored goals for the Yanks, and both are former Toronto FC players trying to win the cup in the city where they once played.
"To be back for a final is the best way to return," Casey said.
He made only two appearances for TFC in 2007 before being traded to Colorado. It was in Rocky Mountain country where Casey became an MLS scoring machine.
"Playing 90 minutes every weekend, playing with a good group of players, being healthy, it's been key," Casey said.
Casey has forgotten about being left off the U.S. World Cup team this past summer and says he has no plans "whatsoever" to actively pursue a spot on the national team.
"I just want to win a cup, that's it," Casey said.
Casey's 13 goals this season came from an effective partnership with co-striker Omar Cummings and finishing some chances.
"We definitely both benefited from each other," Casey said."I want to score as many times as I can with the club."
FC Dallas has a similar situation with Cunningham and league MVP David Ferreira.
"It's an honor for me (to play with Cunningham)," Ferreira said. "He's a such a good technical player and he prepares well and works hard."
For one of the two league legends, a win Sunday night at BMO Field would provide a celebration greater than any of their 174 combined goals.