By: William Gray
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Kosuke Kimura scored the only goal of the Eastern Conference Championship, navigating the rapids to the MLS Cup.
With their breath visible and their path to a championship in clear sight, Colorado played a clean and dominant 90 minutes that will give them a chance at their first MLS title. The Championship will be played next sunday in Toronto against the winner of FC Dallas and the host LA Galaxy.
The Rapids also claimed the title of the only MLS team to win both an Eastern and Western Conference championship. Colorado’s last appearance in the MLS Cup was in 1997, in which they lost to the D.C. United 2-1.
Kimura’s goal came late in the first half on an intended cross that fooled both its intended recipient, Omar Cummings and San Jose goalkeeper, Jon Busch. Kimura seemed an unlikely candidate to punch in the winning goal, however, his quick and accurate first touches have been setting up Rapids’ scorers all season.
“I’ve been working with that on my left foot,” said Kimura, who rarely has put a shot on goal this season. Despite the opportunistic nature of the goal, the championship was earned by solid play throughout the team. The back four has been amongst the best in the league and the veteran midfield controlled the pace of the game, supporting the speedy attack of Cummings and Casey at the front.
“We’ve gotten scoring from a lot of different areas,” said head coach Gary Smith. Clearly proud of the workhorse defender, Smith emphasized his pride in his team and the Western Conference. “It shows the kind of parody there is in the league,” Smith added. Colorado, which finished 5th in the Western Conference has steadily powered their way through the Eastern Conference bracket and will face a conference rival in the final. It seems only fitting that the final should be contested by two teams from the clearly dominate Western Conference.
With the victory, the Rapids not only earned an appearance in the MLS cup, but also an automatic bid in the greatest acronym in soccer history, CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) Champions League. This tournament serves as the qualifier for the FIFA Club World Cup.[picappgallerysingle id=”10202645″]
So with their eyes firmly fixed on a League title, a global behemoth looms distant on the horizon. With such a potent offensive attack and steady defending the Rapids should not be considered unlikely candidates for an MLS Cup as well as success in the CONCACAF.