MLS Cup: DAL-COL

Attack-minded sides chase their first league title


The 15th MLS Cup pits two unlikely foes: FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids.

Dallas, who finished third in the Western Conference, advanced to the club's first-ever league final after ousting the defending champions Real Salt Lake and the Supporters' Shield winners, the LA Galaxy.

The Rapids, who finished 7th in the Western Conference, crossed over to the Eastern Conference playoff bracket, where they upset the Columbus Crew in the first round then edged the San Jose Earthquakes to earn their second-ever MLS Cup berth. They have not played in the final since 1997, when they lost to D.C. United.

Matchup History

The two sides drew both meetings this year. Things ended 1-1 in at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on July 31, and 2-2 at Pizza Hut Park on October 9.

Dallas and Colorado have met in four series in the playoffs. The Rapids have won each time.

FC Dallas news

FCD enter their first-ever MLS Cup full of confidence. Despite attempting to hold onto the underdog role, they are the obvious favorites, especially after last week's 3-0 rout of LA, which coach Schellas Hyndman called a "perfect game."

In that match, Atiba Harris started as the lone striker, and with Milton Rodriguez not at 100%, it looks like he will get the nod there again. “Sometimes when you finally get [the lineup] right, you don’t want to be tinkering with it too much,” Hyndman said this week.

That leaves Jeff Cunningham, the club's leading goal scorer, on the bench, as Hyndman says the bigger Harris will provide more problems to the Colorado centerbacks. Cunningham, who famously struggled when a member of Toronto FC, could be a late sub if Dallas need a goal.

In the midfield, the central pairing of captain Daniel Hernandez and Dax McCartyprovide the muscle behind the recently crowned MVP, David Ferreira. The diminutive Colombian pulls the strings in the attack,

If Hyndman is secure with his midfield and attack, there are some upheavals in the back. Heath Pearce, who has been injured recently, reportedly passed a fitness test in training on Saturday but has been told he will not participate. "Been left out of MLS CUP selection. Passed all fitness tests.. Ready to go but apparently trainer knows more then me!" he tweeted on Saturday. Pearce's absence leaves Jackson and Jair Benitez to start on the outside with the central pairing of George John and Ugo Ihemelu still intact.

Colorado Rapids news

Gary Smith's side has become more defensive as the playoffs have worn on. In the Conference Championship, they made Kosuke Kimura's lone goal standup by staying organized in back and keeping holding midfielders Jeff Larentowiczand Pablo Mastroeni in a defensive posture.

The Rapids have snatched the underdog title from FCD, something Smith sees as a great positive.

“When you’re classed as an underdog, there aren’t too many expectations,” Smith said. “The only expectations there’ll be from our group will be inside that locker room come Sunday evening. For Dallas, it’s slightly different now. The expectations were minimal for them going into LA, they were the underdogs there, and they produced. The difference is, now they’re under some pressure.”

Other than an injury to Jamie Smith—who led the team in assists—the Rapids are in good health. Goalkeeper Matt Pickens is overcoming a groin strain, but should be good to go.

The Rapids attack hinges on the counterattack led by striking pair Conor Caseyand Omar Cummings. They combined for

Defensively, Colorado's speed is a key factor they see as a sure positive. Marvell Wynne, Kimura, and Anthony Wallace have the pace to handle overlapping runs from FCD winger Brek Shea and Marvin Chavez. Kimura and Wallace also like to jump into the attack when possible.  

Statistical Leaders

FC Dallas

  • Jeff Cunningham, 11 goals
  • David Ferreira, 13 assists

Colorado

  • Omar Cummings, 14 goals
  • Jamie Smith, 8 assists

Key Matchup

David Ferreira (DAL) vs. Jeff Larentowicz and Pablo Mastroeni (COL). Recently named MVP Ferreira likes to float underneath the lone striker, and he has uncanny ability to collect the ball in space and create an attacking opportunity either for himself or a teammate. Larentowicz and Mastroeni have become the league's premier midfield tandem. How often they are forced to drop back and deal with Ferreira—thereby curbing their attacking roles—could ultimately determine the result. 

“[Ferreira] is an awesome player who likes to show up in the cracks,” Larentowicz told MLSsoccer.com this week. “He’s fairly diminutive but tricky and, as soon as you lose him, he’s likely to turn up and score. The communication between me, Pablo and the center backs is going to be very important."