2010 Club by Club
Kansas City Wizards
New England Revolution
New York Red Bulls
Real Salt Lake
San Jose Earthquakes
Wearing the underdog title with pride, one of the more unfashionable teams in the league took it all the way to Toronto and lifted MLS Cup despite a long absence from the postseason. That makes for a long, happy winter in the Denver area as the Rapids won their first ever MLS Cup courtesy of a 2-1 victory over FC Dallas. Macoumba Kandji’s deflected effort in extra-time gave them the win, as Gary Smith’s side collected the franchise's first ever trophy.
Out of the postseason for the past three years, the club’s focus was simply on reaching the MLS Cup Playoffs this year. Once it had done that, Smith and his players knew they were playing good soccer and had the collective belief they could go all the way. Kissing that cup in Toronto was the sweet culmination of an outstanding campaign. The Rapids record of 12-8-10 saw them finish fifth in the West as they made a surge for the Cup from under the radar. Omar Cummings top scored with 14 goals as the Jamaican proved clinical all year long.
Smith himself points to the 1-0 loss at home to bottom-feeding D.C. United on Oct. 2. The Rapids had rung up four straight home victories and scored 13 goals, conceding only one. There had also been a highly encouraging 1-1 draw at Real Salt Lake sandwiched between these games, a match where the Rapids conceded a last-second equalizer. A win against United would have more or less secured a postseason spot. But the weakened Rapids, missing some crucial first-team players, came out lifelessly and couldn’t get the job done.
Cummings was a highlight reel all season, but none of his goals were prettier than his gem at Red Bull Arena on Sept. 11. The Jamaican took the ball inside his own half, rounded a couple of paralyzed Red Bulls players and then unleashed a furious left-footed shot on the run to hammer past a disbelieving Bouna Coundoul into the top right hand corner from 35 yards out.
Goalie Matt Pickens had a strong 2010 and pulled off a number of crucial saves all year. The one that sticks in the mind, however, is his save off FC Dallas’ George John in the dying seconds of extra time in MLS Cup. Dallas were pounding the Rapids’ goal in desperate search of an equalizer to take the game into penalty kicks and John shot hard from well inside the box with a left foot drive that a semi-blinded Pickens got down to very quickly and pushed aside with his right hand.
Cummings and Conor Casey grabbed the goals all year, but the Rapids’ true character came from the strength of their captain. Emboldened by the acquisition of Jeff Larentowicz, who armed the central midfield with steel, Mastroeni had more confidence to push forward offensively. The result was that the veteran scored more goals for the Rapids (three) than he has ever done in his nine-year tenure with the team. “Conor’s goals are always so important,” Smith told MLSsoccer.com of who was most valuable for his club, “but I think it would be Pablo for the team.”
Marvell Wynne and Larentowicz both added real skill to the Rapids in 2010 and their roles were critical. Larentowicz – or “the Ginger Ninja,” or “Big Red” – brought toughness, vocal leadership, blistering shooting and intelligence to the midfield alongside Mastroeni. Wynne was immediately thrust into a central defender role and never really looked back, briefly surrendering his place only though injury. His extreme pace often saved the Rapids when it looked certain opposition attackers were in perfect goal-scoring areas.