Surrounded by teammates, Colorado Rapids captain Pablo Mastroeni (centre) hoists the MLS Cup
Conor Casey scores a goal and wins MVP award
The Colorado Rapids claimed their first ever MLS Cup by playing a physical and disruptive style that stymied FC Dallas for a 2-1 extra time victory. The game marked the first ever MLS final played outside of the US as the match took place at BMO Field, the home of Toronto FC.
Although the game may not have been the most entertaining, both teams fought for every ball, putting in an inspired effort in cold and windy conditions. The temperature at kickoff was 45°F or roughly 7°C and equalled the second-coldest in MLS final history.
Rapids’ forward Conor Casey was a constant thorn in the side of the entire Dallas team, as he refused to give up any ground and was consistently in the face of his opponents. Casey’s sheer determination led to his second-half goal while his cross-field pass in extra time was instrumental in the lead-up to the winning goal, an own goal by Dallas defender George John.
Casey’s efforts not only helped his team win the MLS Cup but he was also rewarded with the MVP award.
“It’s just awesome, it’s a great way to end the year,” said Casey. “We battled all year and stuck together, it was a collective effort. It’s just awesome, it’s the first time I have ever won anything, the first time for Pablo (Mastroeni) and the fans, it’s special.”
Conor Casey (left) gets up to celebrate after scoring the tying goal early in the second half
For Rapids captain, Pablo Mastroeni, the victory was the crowning achievement in a long productive career. The 12-year veteran had finally captured the elusive prize and was all smiles after the match.
“Right now this is No. 1,” said Mastroeni. “This is it. All I have is today my friend, the past is already gone. This has been a beautiful ride, capping it off with a win. This has been the most exciting day of my professional career.”
Both teams played to a pair of draws in the regular season, so it came as no surprise that Dallas and Colorado were once again involved in another tight match.
Dallas opened the scoring in the 35th minute when David Ferreira connected on a great cross by Marvin Chavez. Chavez fired a cross into the crease while Ferreira charged at the ball and knocked it out of the air a split second before keeper Matt Pickens could reach the ball. Dallas led 1-0 at halftime.
In the second half, the Rapids were able to neutralize the talented Ferreira and get him off his game. Colorado’s physical play, Casey in particular, seemed to increasingly frustrate Dallas as well.
The Rapids finally capitalized on a goalmouth scramble in the 57th minute to tie the game at 1-1. Casey was able to slide and connect on a cross, but was stopped by Dallas keeper Kevin Hartman who also collided with a defender on the play. The ball, however, lay in the crease. With Hartman turned around and looking in the wrong direction, Casey from the ground reached out with his right leg and managed to tap the loose ball into the net amidst all the confusion.
Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens pumps both fists in the air in celebration as his teammates run out to join him
The game remained tied at the end of 90 minutes, forcing 30 minutes of extra time consisting of two 15 minute halves. Both teams played very cautiously and the game seemed destined for penalty kicks.
In the 107th minute, with the ball deep in Dallas territory, Casey sent a cross to the opposite side of the field to substitute Macoumba Kandji. At the edge of the box, Kandji made a great move slipping the ball between the legs of a defender. He then attempted a cross but the ball was deflected by John and landed in the net. Hartman had no chance as he was fooled by the deflection and was already moving in the wrong direction. John hung his head in disbelief as he was credited with the own goal.
Down 2-1, Dallas pressed forward and had numerous chances in the final five minutes of the match to even the score. In injury time Rapids keeper, Pickens, dove to his right post to make a huge game-saving stop off the foot of John, who nearly atoned for his own goal. Dallas kept the pressure on and nearly scored again before a Rapids defender cleared the ball off the line to maintain the 2-1 victory.
As the whistled sounded, Colorado players leaped and screamed in celebration of the franchise’s first MLS Cup victory. But the team had some hectic and anxious moments in the dying minutes of extra time.
“Hectic is putting it nice,” said Mastroeni. “We were down a man, momentum is going their way and it just seems like every second takes forever.”
“I think the guys in the back did a great job clearing the ball, scrappy and that is when the game becomes more of a test of will than anything else. Pure heart, pure resolve and we have done it all year.”