TORONTO – Gritty. Gutsy. And at times, downright dirty.
The Colorado Rapids’ first-ever MLS championship came the hard way on Sunday, a slugfest with FC Dallas that ended with four yellow cards, plenty of physical scraps and left the Rapids with just 10 men on the field when all the damage was done.
But for a team that has embraced a working class identity this season and grinded out results without fanfare, maybe this kind of bruiser was just what the Rapids wanted in the first place.
They got an ugly but important goal from Conor Casey and won the title on a FC Dallas own goal, the result of a Macoumba Kandji work ethic that punctuated a night that took just about everything the Rapids had to make it out still standing.
“It fit us better than I thought it fit Dallas,” goalkeeper Matt Pickens said. “Conor’s goal, gritty. Mac’s goal, gritty. We knew it was going to be like that, but we knew it would fit us. We work our tail off , and whatever people think we lack for talent, we make up with effort.”
The match was physical from the get-go on Sunday, and ended with Kandji hobbling off the field after he was kicked during the sequence which led to the decisive FCD own goal in the 107th minute. The Rapids were eager to mix it up physically, emblematic of a team that’s fought for respect this season as much as any other club in the league.
“We are as blue collar as you get, but we have a great deal of spirit and belief,” Rapids technical director Paul Bravo said. “The way we played tonight wasn’t always great, but the guys dug in and they truly believed in themselves, from the coaching staff to the guys sitting right there on the pitch.”
Said defender Marvell Wynne: “We were both physical, we were both hitting each other. The yellow cards, the fouls, it didn’t matter. We gave it everything we had.”
WATCH: Full match highlights
Late substitution Wells Thompson was in the mix during one of the match’s most heated moments, a shoving match with veteran FCD defender Daniel Hernandez that nearly escalated into the boiling point of a match that simmered on the burner for two hours.
“It doesn’t take anything away from the skill and the talent of our players, but that’s the thing you can count on with this team,” Thompson said. “We’re not going to back down from anyone.”
Midfielders Jeff Larentowicz and Brian Mullan both attributed the physical and choppy play to the hard field and cold conditions on a night when a biting wind swept in off Lake Ontario.
“I don’t think that’s the way we wanted to play, but we can do it,” Mullan said. “The bottom line is, we won, and we’ll take it any way we can get it.”