Had you told me at the beginning of the year that I would not only be writing for SBnation.com but be writing about the Colorado Rapids playing in the championship game, I would have most likely smacked you and asked you to get me another rum and coke.
This is it. One team is going to lift their first ever MLS Cup this evening in the frigid Canadian air of BMO Field. The Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas were two teams that, through coaching, trades and team chemistry, managed to exceed all expectations this season and a grand prize awaits the one who can win that one more game.
The Rapids started this season with one of the best defenses and goalkeepers in the league, and ended it with a sudden boost in offense as Conor Casey and Omar Cummings managed to light a spark underneath themselves to the tune of 27 goals between them by season's end. The Jeff Larentowicz pick-up before the season started proved to be genius as it gave the Rapids one of the best defensive midfields in the league and allowed Pablo Mastroeni the freedom to roam the field to the tune of one of his best MLS seasons ever.
FC Dallas did not win many games but didn't lose many either. In setting the MLS record for ties in a season they drew their way to the top using sharp and occasionally brilliant football in matches, scratching results out of thin air at times. They have the real goalkeeper of the year - Donovan Ricketts can stop bribing Don Garber at any point, please - in Kevin Hartman, a man who may have single-handedly saved them in the Real Salt Lake series. Oh yeah, and they have the league MVP in David Ferriera.
The Rapids may be playing this game without midfielder Jamie Smith and might not, coach Gary Smith has been a bit ambigous about the whole ordeal. If he cannot play, Wells Thompson will probably start in his stead. The lone striker up top in Dallas' 4-5-1 formation is a bit of a mystery as well, with Atiba Harris the starter in their recent playoff game. Harris did not perform all that well despite the Dallas midfield providing a 3-0 win over LA, Jeff Cunningham may step into the striker role.
These two teams drew 1-1 and 2-2 in their two meetings this season, with a Julien Baudet own-goal keeping the Rapids away from the victory at home and an utter inability to finish when it counted keeping them from winning the second game in Dallas. Expect another hard fought, defensive match today with the most likely result being a winner decided in extra time or even (ugh) penalty kicks as it was last season with LA and Real Salt Lake.
Two teams enter, one team leaves. One thing is for sure; this is going to be a fantastic match. Good luck to our affiliate BigDSoccer and the similarly to us smallish but fiery fanbase that fills Pizza Hut Park every week. May the best team win.