Wednesday, November 24, 2010

MLS Cup Final 2010: Glory for Colorado

And so November comes to an end, and with it Football Americana's second season of Major League Soccer. The final of MLS Cup 2010 took place on Sunday evening at BMO Field in Toronto between Colorado Rapids, the champions of the Eastern Conference, and FC Dallas, their counterparts in the West. The game itself was one for the purists, as they say, but nobody's complaining in Denver.

MLS in 2011 will be a different beast. Portland and Vancouver will form a Pacific Northwest triumvirate with rivals Seattle in an 18-team league with reformed playoffs and a greater focus on youth academies than ever before. In it, the Rapids will be defending champions after a 2-1 extra time win over Schellas Hyndman's Dallas side.

The Rapids were denied a first half penalty and went in at the break a goal down. Jair Benitez swept a diagonal ball out to Marvin Chavez, who repeated the trick for league MVP David Ferreira. The attacking midfielder was racing towards the six yard line and arrived at the perfect moment to knock Chavez's brilliant cross past Matt Pickens in the Colorado goal.

Eleven minutes after half time Gary Smith's side was level. His Scottish namesake, Jamie, passed low into the area for Conor Casey, who reacted quickest when the ball broke loose between himself, goalkeeper Kevin Hartman and Benitez to prod in the equaliser. Dax McCarty for Dallas and Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz had efforts from distance saved, and the chances were split between the two sides before extra time began to loom large over BMO Field.

That extra period was settled in the cruellest of circumstances for the Texan side. Mac Kandji, traded to Colorado in the deal that took Mehdi Ballouchy to New York this season, was found by a lovely raking pass from Casey and headed towards goal from an acute angle. His run was blocked by Ugo Ihemelu and the ball span off the thigh of a stranded George John past his own goalkeeper.

It's a harrowing way to lose the season finale and it's not a moment John or FC Dallas will forget in a hurry. Enormous congratulations to Colorado Rapids on their success this season. They were handed a chance to win the title by virtue of the nature of the playoff system and, like Real Salt Lake last year, grabbed it with both hands.

Football Americana will undoubtedly be back on a few occasions between now and March, when MLS returns. Until then, adiĆ³s!

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