Who will win Sunday's MLS Cup?
When the MLS playoffs began three weeks ago, few pundits or fans alike could have predicted that FC Dallas and Colorado would be contesting the title match at BMO Field on Sunday.
More glamorous, star-laden clubs like L.A., New York, Real Salt Lake and Columbus were expected to pull through and reach the MLS Cup, but Dallas and Colorado rose above the rest by sheer force of will and a deeper desire to win.
Regardless the curious MLS playoff format, or the league's desire to see star players like David Beckham, Thierry Henry or Landon Donovan in its marquee final, Dallas and Colorado have earned their date with destiny.
One of these two clubs will lift its first MLS Cup on a chilly night in Canada on Sunday, but who will it be making history?
Some of Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Soccer Report's best and brightest take their shot at predicting the winner of this year's MLS Cup.
Ives Galarcep - FoxSoccer.com: FC Dallas and Colorado are closely matched in terms of talent in their lineups, but Dallas is playing at a different level right now and its attack is just more dangerous than the Rapids. Colorado relies too heavily on Omar Cummings to create, while Dallas can get chances from its fullbacks as well as MLS MVP David Ferreira. Dallas will overwhelm Colorado's defense while Kevin Hartman has another standout game. FC Dallas 3, Rapids 1.
Nick Webster - FSC and FoxSoccer.com: FC Dallas versus the Colorado Rapids might not be the matchup that MLS headquarters desired, but it pits two teams that play enterprising football against one another. I’m going for FC Dallas 2-1 as I believe they have a little more quality, pace and power than the Rapids.
Christopher Sullivan - Fox Soccer Channel: Colorado will be a more difficult opponent for Dallas than either L.A. or RSL were in the earlier rounds of the playoffs. Both L.A. and RSL at home were obligated to take the game to Dallas and take the attacking initiative, but now the Rapids are in a position to play secure (not cautious), allowing them to play to their counterattacking strength. Having said that, Dallas has beaten the league's most intricate midfield passing team in RSL, which now makes the Hoops the best coordinated attacking midfield team left in the field. Colorado coach Gary Smith has mentioned a personal man marker specifically for new league MVP David Ferreira … between Larentowicz and Mastroeni, the better marker is Mastro with his low center of gravity, yet Ferrreira, even with three defenders on him, can still spin away like a top with his cutaway movement and create dangerous opportunities. Both teams deserve to be in the final … and it's very difficult to pick a winner. Both clubs are well coached, but a slight advantage goes to Dallas for its creative improvisation, which could tip the game. The goal scoring tandem edge goes to colorado … individual speed edge to the Rapids' Omar Cummings, while the collective team speed edge goes to Dallas. If Dallas can put it together like it did earlier in the playoffs, with supporting players like Shea, McCarty, Chavez and Atiba Harris, and if Kevin Hartman stays solid in the back (which he did all season before his injury), then the edge goes to Dallas for the title.
Jamie Trecker - FoxSoccer.com: One team has the Coach of the Year, the Most Valuable Player, and the guy who should have been Goalkeeper of the Year (sorry Donovan Ricketts, Kevin Hartman was better). The other team has, well, nice uniforms. Nothing against Colorado (those uniforms are spiffy) but fact is, Dallas had the tougher route to the final, and has looked better all season long. Anything can happen in a one-off game -- which is one of several reasons I don’t think much of the MLS Cup as a vehicle to crown a league champ -- but I’m picking the favorites and going with the Hoops. I’ll also venture that David Ferreira will be named the MVP of MLS Cup.
Mark Rogondino - Fox Soccer Channel: Who could have predicted that these two teams out of the Western Conference would be the last two standing and taking the field in Toronto this weekend? Colorado and Dallas match up pretty even across the board in most categories, but I think the difference will be in the Rapids midfield. The combination of Mastroeni and Larentowicz will be tough for David Ferreira to overcome. I don't see there being much space for the Colombian to operate, and anyone who has followed the Hoops this season knows, Ferreira is the catalyst for the team's success. The other battle I will be watching very closely, is who in FC Dallas defense is going to stay with Omar Cummings speed? Ugo Ehemelu is not 100% right now, and that likely will hurt FCD when it comes to slowing the speedy Jamaican. Prediction: Rapids 2-1 FC Dallas.
Eric Wynalda - Fox Soccer Channel: One for Conor Casey and one for Omar Cummings as Colorado lifts its first MLS Cup with a 2-0 win over FC Dallas.
Keith Costigan - FoxSoccer.com: Dallas has been the surprise package of the season and Schellas Hyndman has turned it into one of the most dificult teams to beat in MLS. They have one of the best players in the league in David Ferreira, but the Rapids strike duo of Omar Cummings and Conor Casey will prove too much for the Dallas back line to handle on Sunday night. The Rapids also have a tremendous midfield pairing in Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larrentowicz and I expect them to win the midfield battle and lead Colorado to glory.
Kyle Martino - Fox Soccer Channel: I have said it before, and here it comes again ... winning the MLS Cup is all about peaking at the right time. If you are basing your prediction on a team peaking or being considered the "hot" team going into the final, you better go with FC Dallas. Not only did they convincingly dismantle the two best regular season teams in L.A. and RSL, but they have two players that have shined above the rest in their respective categories -- Kevin Hartman and David Ferreira. As for Colorado, there is no better strike force in MLS right now than Conor Casey and Omar Cummings. Although they lack the numbers to support such a statement, I think there is no other duo that poses the speed, strength and skill to constantly torment back fours. If that is not enough (which it isn't), Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz have silenced all of the "two D mids is two too many" critics, with their ability to create a perfect center midfield tide. Lastly, having a player like Brian Mullan (what a pickup that was) who has won the Cup four times already in his career, can not be underestimated. For my money, he has been one of MLS' best outside midfielders over the last decade. Like many MLS Cups before, both teams will play a very disciplined, defensive game for long stretches of the match. Individual game changers will determine who lifts the MLS Cup, and I feel that Colorado's game changers will prevail in this one ... either way, I cant wait to enjoy it. Plus, I think Hartman used up the last of his pixie dust in that L.A. game.
Derek Taylor - Fox Soccer Report: It's FC Dallas's time. I get such a warm feeling thinking about how they play the game and the kind of team that Schellas Hyndman has built. They went on the road and thoroughly dominated the L.A. Galaxy, winners of the Supporter's Shield. And it's wasn't a big surprise. Dallas was a 50-point team during the regular season. And they led the league in goal difference. This may also be the best that Kevin Hartman has ever played. If they don't allow an early goal to Colorado's lethal duo of Omar Cummings and Conor Casey, Dallas will tilt the field in its favor. And they will claim their first MLS title.
Michelle Lissel - Fox Soccer Report: Either way you look at it, there are great story lines from both Colorado and Dallas. Both Schellas Hyndman and Gary Smith have their respective teams playing as one cohesive unit, both clubs shut down their opponents in the conference finals, and both teams are stocked with legit goal scorers. That speaks volumes.These teams have players that are so vital to their success and its hard to name just one or two -- so I won't. But I think it'll come down to who executes best (as it always does) and who scores first. I want to give the edge to Dallas, but I think the conditions will favor Colorado. I will admit I have a soft spot for Rapids defender Marvell Wynne. There's a player that gave his heart and soul while playing for Toronto FC -- and now goes back with a chance to hoist the MLS Cup. I think his presence will give Colorado the supporter's edge for that simple fact. Winner: Colorado 1-0.
John Juhasz - FOXSports.com: Both Western Conference clubs are attempting to secure their first MLS Cup. These aren't necessarily the two best teams in the league, but rather the two who got hot at the right time. Colorado came up short in the final way back in 1997, while Dallas has never been in this game, but since the Rapids' appearance came so long ago, it's not going to factor into this contest. Dallas looked a little sharper in the Western Conference final against the Galaxy, and that's why I like them to win 2-0 on a Ferreria brace in this spot.
Rene Romano - FOXSports en Español: The Hoops could give us all a huge surprise at BMO Field. Not only did they silence Supporter's Shield winner L.A., but they also knocked off the defending champs in RSL. Dallas is definitely my favorite to win it all in Toronto since the Rapids do not have the individual talent that the Hoops have. Ferreira and Chavez will be key for FC Dallas, while Colorado will depend on what Mastroeni and company could build in the midfield for their strong forwards. Don't discard a thriller at BMO with few watching oustside of those fans that still believe MLS has something to celebrate with its clear favorites L.A. and New York out of the picture.
Robert Burns - FoxSoccer.com: After posting a 19-match unbeaten streak during league play this season, it's obvious that FC Dallas is tough to break down and even tougher to put away. And with the speed of Chavez, the creativity of Ferreira, the grit of Shea and McCarty, and the reliability of Hartman in goal, that's just what Colorado will have to do if the Rapids hope to lift their first MLS Cup. Make no mistake though -- Colorado does possess game changers and anything can happen, especially in chilly Toronto conditions which will favor the Rocky Mountain club. While this may not be the MLS Cup the fans and the league wanted, these teams are more than capable of producing a thrilling, memorable final which is exactly what I think they will do. So after an enthralling 2-2 draw with 90 minutes in the books, the unlikely hero will be Dax McCarty in extra time to give the Hoops the title.