By William Gray

TORONTO – In their typical scrappy fashion, the rapids clawed their way to a 2-1 win in extra time to claim their first MLS Cup.

On Sunday night at BMO Field in Toronto the Rapids encapsulated their entire season in one physical, gutsy performance that brought the MLS Cup to Colorado.

Early, the game looked as though it would go the way of a pre-written MLS script.  Recently named league MVP David Ferreira scored on a well-time cross from Dallas midfielder Marvin Chavez.  With a win, Dallas would also claim their first MLS Cup with the MVP in tow.  Chavez would of course be named finals MVP and Colorado would probably look into changing their logo or colors again.

Colorado Rapids players celebrate after a goal by Macoumba Kandji (bottom) as FC Dallas defender Ugo Ihemelu (L) and Jair Benitez (R) react during the extra time of their MLS Cup championship soccer match in Toronto November 21, 2010. REUTERS/ Mike Cassese (CANADA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)

But as they’ve done all season the Rapids clawed their way back.  In the biting cold, Connor Casey, the big, bald backbone of the Colorado attack punched in a physical goal from a seated position on a rebound.  A typical, ugly goal that the Rapids have made their bread and butter this season.

The match stayed deadlocked at one and the game’s intensity doubled.  Four yellow cards were handed out, three of which went to Colorado.

“We work our tail off , and whatever people think we lack for talent, we make up with effort,” said Colorado Goalkeeper Matt Pickens.  Besides summing up the entire Rapids’ season, Pickens made 10 saves in the Rapids’ victory.  In extra time Dallas outshot Colorado 9-1, with several shots requiring dramatic saves from Pickens to hold the tenuous Colorado Lead.

The only Colorado shot in extra time came from substitute Macoumba Kandji.  After splitting defender Jair Benitez’s legs and leaving him on the ground, Kandji fired a ball from a near 0 angle that ricocheted off Dallas defender George John and into the net.  The goal was as miraculous and inopportune as a defender with two first names.

Kandji had been acquired from New York earlier in the season, and once again, paralleled the type of season the Rapids wrote.  Pieces from all over the league, including defender, Marvell Wynne and even Anthony Wallace, a mid-season acquisition from Cup opponent FC Dallas had built the team up and brought them to the brink of a title.

The season and the title were pieced together from bits of brilliance woven together with the tenacity of a full bench willing themselves towards a championship.

Conor Casey was named MVP as the Rapids hoisted the trophy after playing with 10 men for the final 12 minutes of extra time.

“We battled all year and stuck together, it was a collective effort…it’s the first time I have ever won anything, the first time for Pablo (Mastroeni) and the fans, it’s special,” said Casey.

In their 14 year history the Rapids have slowly created a soccer culture in Colorado.  The Rocky Mountains have become home to fierce soccer rivalries between Salt-Lake, Dallas and Colorado.  They’ve seen their roster flipped upside down, colors change and coaches replaced, but have finally arrived at the pinnacle.

With the trophy on their shoulders the Rapids can now enjoy their perch above the rest of the MLS.  With Beckham and Henry on the coasts, sucking up media attention, we can rest assured that the Cup rests with a tried and true MLS team built from the ground up with a vast amount of American soccer talent.

As the Rapids fly back to Denver, there is no doubt that although one championship rests in their possession, their minds will begin to wander to the FIFA Club World Cup.  We’ll see if a club team built on the backs of American footballers can have what it takes to compete against the world’s best.

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