Lunchpail: Colorado Crowned 2010 MLS Champs

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.

Your 2010 MLS Champs....

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.

Big Red and Sayid were not "Lost" on their island in the midfield...

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TSG suggested that Conor Casey would have to be withdrawn or that the Rapids couldn’t defend the central midfield with just the Larentowicz-Mastroeni bookend all night long and hope to win.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.

Honduras all over again....

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.

15 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/11/22 at 1:28 AM

    I’m just adding this in the commentary.

    “Never seen Conor Casey run as much in all his games on the USMNT as he did this evening.”


    • I was thinking the same thing. He looked spritely, almost. I wonder if he looked faster last night because of the calibre of players he was going up against. Nothing against the MLS, but Italy, Brazil, and Spain it is not.


      • Posted by KickinNames... on 2010/11/22 at 1:01 PM

        Conor Casey. Spritely. Just say that slowly and let it roll around in your mouth…

        When he wasn’t slapfighing or kicking his way through a challenge. That ref should not see another big match for a while.


    • Posted by kaya on 2010/11/22 at 10:47 PM

      I’ve always thought the guy limited his career by an apparent refusal to lose some weight… he ran quite a bit, but the extra weight was useful for this wrestling match of a game.


  2. Posted by KickinNames... on 2010/11/22 at 6:52 AM

    This was the crowning game of MLS? Wow. I am enough of a soccer fan that I watch and/or Tivo 8-12 EPL/SPL games over most weekends and I honestly cannot believe how incredibly bush league the level of play is in MLS. As a MNT supporter I really try to get engaged but displays like this just make it nearly impossible. Just aimless play all over the pitch and I don’t know that I saw one ball out of the back that wasn’t either lumped forward (with little to no precision) or just kicked out of bounds. Possession was given away cheaply. Ferreira’s goal was a nice change of pace but the lack of any coherent build up play just makes the game hard to watch.
    Not a hater but when I do take the time to watch am really just surprised at the mediocrity of the play. I mean Conor Casey? Really?

    Secondly, promises made or not, how do you host your championship game in Toronto in end of Nov. They couldn’t draw fans to their own games let alone two neutrals. In late Nov.

    And how on God’s green earth does John Harkes get handed the mantel of “US soccer broadcaster”. I swear that Ian Darke is just going to punch him in the face one of these times after his brutally unfunny “jokes”. I’d actually tune in if that were to happen.

    Other than that, Happy Thanksgiviing and thanks for the coverage.


    • Posted by RYC on 2010/11/22 at 12:34 PM

      Your comment would have a lot more vailidity if you didn’t start off by saying you watch SPL matches every weekend.


      • Posted by KickinNames... on 2010/11/22 at 12:55 PM

        Meant Spanish LA Liga not Scottish. Context was pretty clear if you read it. Sat down very interested in seeing a good game and came away very disappointed in both the style of play and the overall product on the field.
        It’s validity by the way. Typos of kind of undermine the validity police thing…)


  3. Posted by John on 2010/11/22 at 7:24 AM

    That was the worse called game I have ever witnessed. How Conor Casey got the MVP is just indicative of the game itself. He should not have even been on the pitch at the end of the game. In fact Colorado should be embarrased by their performance or impression of WWE (wrestling). Pablo Mastroeni is a whining little punk from what I could see. How many times was he going to be allowed to block, kick the ball away and stand in the way of freekicks before being showed a card. He finally got one. My six year old take from the game was Colorado played dirty all game long and the shot that lead to the own goal should have not been as the Colorado player fouled the FC Dallas player when he did his best Conor Casey imatation when he just
    grabbed the defender and threw him to the ground. Just a question was this the same official that let Landon Donavan push the FC Dallas player to the ground then pass the ball to Beckham for the goal?
    Just pitifal.


  4. Posted by John on 2010/11/22 at 10:56 AM

    I guess it is easy to just complain about things today rather than enjoy the game for what it was. The MLS had two scrappy, defensive, counter attacking teams make it to the final. They have some things to fix, but the game was dramatic in its’ own right. If the EPL had a playoff system and somehow Birmingham and Wolves made it to the final it would be just as much a defensive, foul cramped, gritty game.

    Say what you want to, but I like the fact that there is a heavy dose of unpredictability in the MLS system. Does the league need work? Yes. However I watched many MLS games this year that were entertaining, attacking, and beautiful football. Just as I have watched many foul strewn, ugly, lumping EPL games.

    Kudos to the Rapids for winning, and a big hearty welcome to my Portland Timbers as the new season will unfold soon.


  5. Posted by 4now on 2010/11/22 at 12:42 PM

    Cup finals (everywhere) are usually underwhelming. I’m just saying.


  6. Posted by kaya on 2010/11/22 at 11:15 PM

    I suppose I might have a different perspective of Colorado had I watched more than their games against San Jose and last night’s… but I just don’t see the mastery of their midfield… at all. Dallas were mediocre, but Colorado were terrible.
    At least Dallas tried to play some balls through the midfield. Shea was indeed useless, but I thought Chavez and Ferreira did a lot more of interest than Mastroeni and Larenredhead IMO. Dallas were effective in keeping the ball mostly away from Kimura/Cummings, so Colorado just repeatedly booted the ball over the midfield and into the UFC ring. Since I have no basis for preference for either team, my natural inclination between these 2 geographic areas would normally go to go Colorado… but the Rapids gave me every reason to hope that Dallas would win.
    As far as the Benitez/Casey 1st half incident goes, from the reverse angle replays, 90% of Casey’s fall was dive.


    • Posted by 4now on 2010/11/23 at 12:22 AM

      Colorado has very little class, that’s the thing. They’re all grit and athleticism and tactics and restraint, at the same time – which proves to do well at the end of a long season in cold climates.


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