Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Dallas Soccer [Print without images]

Monday, November 22, 2010
MLS Cup 2010: End of the beautiful game

By Peter Welpton

Winning the MLS Cup from two of the softest, most unappealing goals is indicative of the manner in which Colorado won and indicative of the manner Dallas lost.

FC Dallas, a team known for playing positive attacking-style soccer, was reduced to the same impatient, over-the-top physical play that the Colorado Rapids have survived on all season long. They also were simply better at it than Dallas. It wasn't five minutes into the match that the fouling had begun, by both sides, and the hope that either side would play possession or any kind of attractive soccer was out floating around in Lake Erie. Rapids coach, Gary Smith admitted as much after the match and was correct that his team's ability to adjust to that style of play was the reason the Cup will be in Commerce City for 2011.

Colorado's Jeff Larentowicz and Pablo Mastroeni were at their brutal best. The destructive pair quickly found out that referee Baldomero Toledo was more than willing to allow play to continue and only blow the whistle when absolutely necessary. With that invitation, the Colorado duo simply killed Dallas' attack by assaulting it to death. The result was that as Dallas found it impossible to play its game, FCD was reduced to booting the ball long -- and that is not something Hyndman's team is any good at.

Without getting the ball to his feet and back to goal, Atiba Harris cannot hold up play and allow the attack to develop. Instead, Harris was reduced to trying to fight off Moor and Wynne, who are both more aggressive and better at fighting for possession.

Dallas knew what it was up against Sunday night. Both of the previous matches against Colorado were sorry affairs. Dallas just can't find an answer for an opponent that brings out the bludgeon, especially vs. the Rapids, which can generally match them for speed.

David Ferreira was commonly found way out wide, hiding from the man marking which left Dax McCarty the victim of Larentowicz and Mastroeni's loving attention. Exacerbating the issue was the knee problems of FCD captain Daniel Hernandez. Most fans know his knee hurts, but the extent of his injury was largely unnoticeable until Sunday night.

Hernandez's knee is "hanging on by a thread," as reported by some that know him personally. Unable to move freely, he was unable to do what he does best -- collect and distribute. And with Casey and Cummings smartly falling back and pressing Dallas defenders -- preventing them from getting the ball to the static Hernandez -- the long-ball bootfest was in effect.

Dallas had its chances, especially late when Colorado was forced to stop pressuring and simply sit back. Dallas went into atypical panic mode and lost its patience. Gary Smith's side was almost begging Dallas to tie the match and send it to PKs, but Dallas instead lost composure and repeatedly tried to only cross the ball into the area and hope a Keystone Kops moment resulted in a second goal.

Instead, most balls were booted well away, and the few real opportunities were either saved (John's low blast), body blocked (Dax's repeated volley's from the top of the box) or woefully choked (Ugo's moonshot and Cunningham's brutal ... ah, don't get me started).

In the end, Dallas just could not overcome what the game has been demoted to. In the press box, there was a palpable disgust over how the match had transpired and a lot of eye rolling that the Rapids were galavanting around the stadium with the Cup. Not that Colorado hadn't won fair and square, just that the manner in which they were able to make their playoff run as the #7 seed was another indicator that MLS has a long way to go before the rest of the soccer world gives the league any real respect.

Smith was honest about how his team had achieved its championship: "It was always going to be tough [for the Rapids] if the game was too open, with guys like David Ferreira, who just have the run of the game. We limited a very talented group of players to next to nothing. I'm not sure it was the greatest viewing for fans, because it was such a cut-and-thrust game."

Fair points. But, gosh, does Don Garber and North American Soccer fans really want their champions to be that type of soccer team?

As a result, FC Dallas now joins the Dallas Stars, Dallas Mavericks and Texas Rangers as DFW area teams since 2000 that have all participated in their respective championship and lost. Not that it will make fans feel any better, but Hyndman's troops had a fabulous season and much to be proud of.

Until MLS either changes the way they officiate their matches, or Schellas finds an answer to negative soccer, Dallas will likely struggle to find their turn on the podium.