TORONTO – Forget the summer of spending in Major League Soccer. The Colorado Rapids, evidently, never got the memo about how a team is supposed to win a league title.
Forged by aggressive trades to build on a talent base they already adored, Colorado ascended to become MLS Cup champions steadily and without much fanfare, just the way they wanted to do it.
And the Rapids’ 2-1 win over FC Dallas on Sunday night at BMO Field was a night to celebrate the moves that worked. Five of the most decisive players in the Rapids’ first-ever league title were brought over this season, what some considered the first time in a long time that Colorado got greedy about winning a title.
WATCH: Full match highlights
“For me, I think it’s incredibly satisfying” said midfielder Jeff Larentowicz, who helped stifle FCD’s attack in his first MLS Cup since joining Colorado from New England earlier this year. “And for the other guys who came over, I think it tells us we ended up in the right place.”
Larentowicz and fellow Revolution midfielder Wells Thompson came over in a trade in January, the first of a number of moves Colorado made to build a winning team around franchise staples like Pablo Mastroeni, Omar Cummings and Conor Casey.
“There was a lot of uncertainty for me, but I knew they’d already put a lot of the pieces together,” said Thompson, who came on in the waning minutes of regulation on Sunday and then gutted out a physical 30 minutes of extra time. “It was a team that kind of underachieved for a couple years, but this year I think we were one of the better teams this year. We deserve to be here.”
[inline_node:323637]Marvell Wynne followed just before the season opener, a gutsy deal made on a player who was on the outs with Toronto FC and had to be converted to a center back to properly fit head coach Gary Smith’s scheme in Colorado.
“Early on, I had a feeling of never truly feeling beaten by a team,” Wynne said. “Ever since I got here I never really felt a game was lost, no matter what the score was. I felt confident, and you could tell this spring that the team had a lot of confidence. We knew we were good enough to win.”
Then came perhaps the clinchers that the Rapids meant business, locking down deals for four-time MLS Cup winner Brian Mullan and young speedster Macoumba Kandji at the trade deadline in September.
Kandji ended up causing the own goal that decided the match, and Mullan was pesky and aggressive on the right flank as Colorado tried to keep FC Dallas on their heels.
“This team really came together in the last month of the season,” said Mullan, who claimed his fifth MLS Cup in the win over FC Dallas. “The Supporters’ Shield is a nice honor, but in this league, the last game is here in the final, and you gotta get here to do it.
“A lot of guys are very happy here, and a lot of guys are very deserving,” Mullan added. “It’s been a long time coming for some of these guys.”
Colorado still haven’t cracked the coffers for a Designated Player, and after grinding out their first MLS title the way they did this season, don’t expect them to anytime soon. They’re a team instead built on clever and opportunistic trades like the ones made during a season that finally gave them a championship, perhaps while some other clubs was too busy buying to notice.
“This team has been on the brink of being special like this for a few years,” defender Drew Moor said. “You bring in guys like Larentowicz, Mullan and Wells Thompson, those are the right kinds of guys you want to have for a championship team.”