2010 MLS Cup: Colorado Rapids beat FC Dallas in overtime for first Major League Soccer title

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 22, 2010; 1:18 AM

TORONTO - Appropriately, an MLS Cup lacking artistry and losing the attention of a thinning crowd was decided by an own goal. And with the deflection in the 17th minute of overtime Sunday evening, the Colorado Rapids claimed their first league championship with a 2-1 victory over favored FC Dallas before an announced sellout of 21,700 at BMO Field.

In front of thousands of empty seats, vacated by neutral observers escaping the late-night chill, reserve Macoumba Kandji settled Conor Casey's long diagonal ball just inside the penalty area. After toying with Jair Benitez, Kandji struck the ball an instant before Ugo Ihemelu's challenge.

George John slid over to protect the near side, but with goalkeeper Kevin Hartman committed to the far end, the ball caromed off John and floated into the closest corner.

The Rapids, the seventh-best club in the eight-team playoffs, had not advanced to the final since 1997. Dallas was making its first appearance.

"It's been a struggle and we were a club still trying to find an identity," Colorado veteran midfielder Pablo Mastroeni said. "That goes for a lot of clubs, especially the smaller-market teams. It seems like you have to win something, you have to win the whole thing in order to be heard. . . . It's exciting times now. The future is looking brighter."

David Ferreira, the league MVP, provided Dallas with the lead in the 35th minute, but Conor Casey scored the equalizer early in the second half. On the own goal, Kandji sprained his knee and left the match, leaving his club shorthanded the rest of the way because it had exhausted its three substitutes.

Matt Pickens preserved the lead with a sensational save on John's low bid and defender Drew Moor cleared Jeff Cunningham's angled attempt out of the six-yard box.

Commenting on the match being decided by an own goal, Rapids Coach Gary Smith said: "The overriding thought has to be that, in order for somebody to score an own goal, they must be under some pressure to make that mistake. You don't get too many [own goals] that you volley in from 40 yards. I'm just pleased that the guys were able to, in that extra time, mount enough of an attack to make a difference."

The goal shattered a feisty and frustrating affair marred by hard tackles, head-to-head collisions and disjointed play.

The Rapids pleaded for a penalty kick in the 27th minute. The bruising and bruised Casey muscled Benitez for possession deep in the box, receiving a kick to the upper body in the process. In his recovery, the fallen Benitez swept his leg under Casey, who tumbled to the turf. Play continued.

Dallas went ahead on a superb sequence. Benitez, the left back, launched a long, cross-field ball to Marvin Chavez in stride. Chavez served a low cross to the edge of the six-yard box. Pickens was too late coming off his line, and Ferreira stung an expert volley into the center of the net.

The Rapids drew even 12 minutes after the break. Jamie Smith made a run into the left side of the penalty area and drove the ball toward Casey making a near-post run. Casey, Benitez and Hartman converged, all falling like bowling pins inside the six-yard box. From a sitting position, Casey poked it into the open net.

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