Colorado wins its first MLS title
FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman knows soccer can be cruel sometimes. It certainly was for FC Dallas defender George John on Sunday night in the MLS Cup.
John deflected a shot into his own net in overtime and the Colorado Rapids beat FC Dallas 2-1 for their first MLS championship.
"You play for 90 plus minutes and it's a game of inches," Hyndman said. "It's a deflection goal. It goes in and you say 'How did that happen?"'
Dallas captain Daniel Hernandez found it hard to contain his emotions.
"It definitely hurts to get this far and be so close," Hernandez said. "There's no words to describe the feeling if you win and there's no words if you lose."
League MVP David Ferreira scored for Dallas in the first half, and Colorado's Conor Casey, selected the game MVP, tied it in the second.
In the second half of overtime, Rapids substitute Macoumba Kandji took a long pass from Casey, drove inside the box, beat a defender and stabbed the ball across the face of the Dallas goal. His shot spun off John's left thigh and over goalkeeper Kevin Hartman's head. John was charged with an own goal.
"I don't mind how they come," Rapids coach Gary Smith said. "If they're winners, it doesn't matter. For somebody to score an own goal there must be some pressure, they must be under some pressure, to make that mistake."
The 23-year-old John, a second-year player from Washington, fell to one knee, holding his head in his hands.
"I told him you don't let stuff like that make you who you are," Hartman said. "You can make it a footnote in your entire resume, but you don't let it become who you are. He's a solid defender. He's probably one of the best defenders I've ever played with."
The attendance was announced at 21,700, a sellout, but there were hundreds of empty seats scattered around the stadium. The temperature at kickoff was 45 degrees.
Kandji, Colorado's third and final substitute, sprained his left knee on the play and had to limp off, leaving the Rapids a player short for the final 12 minutes.
"At that point, I thought the defenders did their job admirably," Smith said.
Kandji was slow to leave the field, leading to a confrontation with Dallas' Ugo Ihemelu, who accused him of wasting time. Ihelemu shoved Kandji as he hobbled slowly off the field, but was not disciplined.
Ferreira nearly set up the tying goal with 5 minutes left, sliding a pass across the box to Ihelemu, but the defender blazed his shot high.
Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens made a crucial save in the final minute, pushing John's shot wide. Moments later, defender Drew Moor cleared a shot off the goal line after Dallas striker Jeff Cunningham had rounded the goalie.
"Jeff's speed gives him some opportunities sometimes and I anticipated it pretty early," Moor said. "I don't think he quite got as much on it as he wanted to and I was just in the right place at the right time."
Dallas opened the scoring in the 35th minute when winger Marvin Chavez fired an precise cross into the path of a streaking Ferreira, who used his right foot to hammer the ball past Pickens.
"He scored a great goal," Casey said. "The ball played into him was perfect."
It was the second goal of the playoffs for Ferreira, who scored eight times during the regular season and also scored the opening goal last weekend in a 3-0 semifinal victory over Los Angeles.
Colorado tied it in the 57th minute. Jamie Smith cut into the penalty area and fired a low ball at the net, with Casey arriving at the same time as Hartman and defender Jair Benitez. Casey reacted fastest when the ball squirted loose, kicking it into the goal while still lying on the grass.
"(The ball) was caught up between the keeper and the defender," Casey said. "It was on the ground under his arm. No one could really get to it but my toe so I just poked it in."
The Rapids nearly took the lead 5 minutes later on a free kick by Jeff Larentowicz, but Hartman dove to his left to push the low, hard shot around his far post.
Colorado players surrounded referee Baldomero Toledo in anger after he denied the Rapids the chance to take a corner kick with time winding down at the end of the second half, blowing his whistle to send the game to extra time.
NOTES: John's own goal was the third in the 15-year history of the MLS Cup, and the first to decide a game. ... This was the seventh overtime MLS Cup final. ... Colorado was playing in the MLS Cup for the second time and first since 1997. Dallas was playing in the championship game for the first time.