The Colorado Rapids come away with the victory Sunday night in Toronto as they rally from a goal deficit to wash out FC Dallas in the MLS Cup final, 2-1.
In what could be described as a true dig-in and hold-your-ground tug of war, the Rapids voraciously defended their central midfield and used a Conor Casey toe-poke from a sprawled position and a Mac Kandji-initiated Dallas own goal to down MLS MVP David Ferreira–who had his team’s lone tally–and FC Dallas.
TSG’s Jason Price and I took in the game at Danny Coyles in San Francisco with the crew from Center Line Soccer and Die Hipster Brewmaster Scott Riley (pushing hard for a Dax McCarty championship ring). Jason and I compiled many of the thoughts below:
• Take a bow, Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz
While many will erroneously tout Jeff Larentowicz exclusively–who was himself near flawless in possession in his defensive third–it was specifically the combination of Pablo Mastroeni and the Big Red Mountain Man who shut down the Dallas midfield and made finding lynchpin David Ferreira exceedingly difficult.
Countless times throughout the game, the Hoops attempted to ping it through the middle and whether it was Ferreira, Dax McCarty or a checking back Atiba Harris, the Hoops found no joy.
That David Ferreira, in particular, was quieted without Pablo Mastroeni earning a card was something that was incredulous to this writer before the showdown.
The continued stymieing of the Dallas attack in the middle combined with Brek Shea’s absenteeism on the left, resigned Dallas to forcing the ball down the right flank to Marvin Chavez, who created a chance or two but was not nearly proficient enough for what was demanded of him on the evening. (Note: Chavez was good, but too much was asked of him.)
TSG suggested that Conor Casey would have to be withdrawn or that the Rapids couldn’t defend the central midfield with just the Larentowicz-Mastroeni bookend all night long and hope to win. Consider us proved wrong, pleasantly, by the display.
• The Conor Casey Workhorse
You knew Conor Casey was feeling it when late in the game the knockaround guy attempted a little double stutter step move on the left wing in the hopes of deking his way around two defenders.
In a physical game that favored Casey’s elbow-flailing style, the Colorado man was an absolute necessity to the Colorado game plan and he came up aces (and with some MVP hardware.)
Beyond Casey’s goal from the ground to knot the score early in the first half, Casey was absolutely vital to the attack as Dallas’ game plan forced the ball away from Omar Cummings who in turn failed to rise to the occassion.55th minute
As Cummings faded from the Colorado offense, Casey was moved outside from his normal central forward role to provide a hold-up play and draw out the Dallas central defense.
With Casey creating numerous threats on the outside, it in turn created space in the midfield as Daniel Hernandez and friends were constantly forced to come out and help out their central backbone.
• Pickens, Moor, Wynne and even Andrew Wallace: Take A Bow
TSG’s Jason Price–an experienced keeper–and I acknowledged three massive mistakes that led to David Ferreira running on to an Eric Chavez cross and coolly depositing home the game’s initial score.
First, Andrew Wallace–who bent but didn’t break on the evening–gave up way too much of an angle in letting Chavez’s cross even find the box.
Next Drew Moor failed to run with Ferreira into the box on the quick countering play–allowing Ferreira a direct angle to receiving the service.
Finally, Matt Pickens–slow off his line all season long–was mostly decisive in coming out, but negligent in failing to get there. You have to get there.
The result? A lead for Dallas.
The 2nd half saw all the Rocky Mountain actors in that play take a step along with Marvell Wynne who continues to impress in his move from right back.
(In fact, Jason related a quote attributed to Colorado coach Gary Smith when asked early in the season about Wynne being the starting central back. It paraphrases to this, “Marvell is going to be just fine. He doesn’t have the license to go forward now.”)
Dallas may have had 17 shots to seven for Colorado, but the Rapids central defense and keeper proved up to the task demanded in their final game of the season.
• Mac Attack
TSG interviewed Mac Kandj on Thursday of this week and suggested the big fella would be a highly unlikely, but possible a factor come late Sunday night.
Kandji came on for an inefficient Omar Cummings and somehow managed to be a difference maker.
Well played…Jason Price and TSG.
Some other notes:
»Dealing with Cummings:
While Omar Cummings should be held accountable for failing to go find the ball, it was, two keen tactical moves by Schellas Hyndman–who should still be commended on his evening’s game plan–that led to Cummings vanishing act.
First, was Dallas continually keeping the ball away from Cummings side of the field.
Second, and perhaps more subtly was disciplined positioning by the Dallas backline combined, more notably, with Kevin Hartman playing way off his line in the back to make the space that Cummings could have to receive the ball over the top infinitesimal. At times, I thought Hartman was guarding the 18-yard line, not his goal line!
As Jason and I noted, a smart chip from the top of the offensive third might have earned Colorado an equalizer earlier in the game if Larentowicz or Mastroeni had looked for it.
» How Far Can “Evening Out” Go:
Jair Benitez should have probably earned a red card, but definitely a yellow as he battled Conor Casey in the box in the first half.
The play saw Casey initiate (and foul) Benitez, but then Benitez leg whip and trip Casey after the ball was at his feet.
After the play, it seemed the refs were intent on letting Casey have his way with ticky-tack fouls all over the pitch all night long on Dallas players.
On one play in the 2nd half, Casey–in a move we’ve seen from him before–purposely stepped on the back heel of one of the Dallas players.
It’s tough to take anything away from Casey as the game was called extremely loose and he was allowed to play as such, but consider this an addendum to the Casey praise above.
» Oops, listened to the wrong tunes on my iPod in pre-game
Colorado’s Brian Mullan and FC Dallas man Brek Shea cancelled each out. Both came out listlessly and couldn’t find their groove the entire game.
Shea was eventually substituted for Jeff Cunningham–an understandable but curious move as Cunningham likes contact as much as a nun in a singles bar–while Mullan should likely have went to the bench early in favor of Wells Thompson by our volition.
Zach Lloyd for the Texas men also look inexperience and unsettled.