Who's got the edge in the MLS Cup?

BY foxsports • November 19, 2010

A quick look at the results between FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids would suggest that there isn’t much separating the two teams and Sunday’s MLS Cup final should be a tightly contested encounter.

While their two regular season matchups did end in draws, the difference in Sunday’s game rests with the form FC Dallas is hitting right now. Both teams have done well to reach Sunday’s MLS Cup, but Dallas has taken its play to a new level that has already eliminated the two best teams in MLS during the regular season.

Colorado won’t be dominated, and the Rapids surely have a chance to win this battle of surprise finalists, but all signs point to FC Dallas walking away from BMO Field with the championship.

Here is a closer look at how these team’s match up all over the field ...

FORWARD

The Rapids boast the clear-cut edge up top, and not just because Dallas prefers a one-forward formation. Colorado boasts what is arguably the best forward tandem in MLS, and the most prolific in MLS history.

Dallas isn’t completely toothless up front, though. Jeff Cunningham is the leading scorer in MLS history, but he may give way again to Atiba Harris -- a workhorse who puts pressure on opposing defenders. The Rapids have some depth off the bench as well, with Mac Kandji and Quincy Amarikwa.

EDGE - Colorado

MIDFIELDERS

Colorado has what most consider the toughest defensive midfield tandem in the league, but for a complete midfield, Dallas gets the edge. The Rapids have veteran Mullan on the wing, with Wells Thompson as the weak link on the left, but Dallas can throw serious speed on the wings to complement the underrated central midfield tandem of Daniel Hernandez and Dax McCarty. In fact, you could argue that Hernandez was just as influential as either Mastroeni or Larentowicz.

All that doesn’t even take into account MLS MVP David Ferreira, who has played some of the best soccer in the league in 2010. He brings a creative element to the Dallas midfield that Colorado just doesn’t have.

EDGE - Dallas

DEFENDERS

The FC Dallas back line isn’t what you would consider dominant, but it can be called dynamic. Jair Benitez was arguably the best left back in MLS this year, while the same could be said for Heath Pearce at right back. Pearce’s injury status means speedy fullback Jackson Goncalves could be called on to start his fourth straight playoff game.

Colorado’s defense isn’t exactly a pushover. Marvell Wynne and Drew Moor have developed a strong working relationship in central defense, while Kosuke Kimura has become one of the better right backs in MLS. The Rapids have arguably the weakest of the eight starting defenders in left back Anthony Wallace, but with Wallace facing his former club he could be motivated to play well.

That won’t be enough to give Colorado the edge over a group of Dallas defenders that is deeper, stronger and more athletic.

EDGE - Dallas

GOALKEEPERS

Matt Pickens is a very good MLS goalkeeper, but when you’re being compared to the most successful goalkeeper in league history, and a goalkeeper who was arguably the best in MLS, it’s a tough sell.

Hartman was well on his way to being named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year before a freak injury caused by Thierry Henry forced him to miss six matches. Hartman could make a case for being the most important player in Dallas’ playoff run, making clutch save after clutch save. He is in search of his third MLS Cup title and is a safe bet to add it on Sunday.

EDGE - Dallas

COACH

Gary Smith deserves credit for helping the Rapids reach the playoffs and pull a first round upset against Columbus, but it is tough to argue with the belief that Schellas Hyndman has done more to turn Dallas into a powerhouse than Smith has done with the Rapids.

Hyndman’s tactics in knocking off Real Salt Lake and Los Angeles, and respected coaches Jason Kreis and Bruce Arena, show a coach who has completed the transition from long-time college coach to quality pro coach.

EDGE - Dallas

OVERALL

The Rapids have the strikers to find a vital early goal that could play into Colorado’s strengths, but FC Dallas has the balance, the attacking threat and the overall team speed to find the cracks in the Rapids defense and deliver FC Dallas its first MLS Cup title.

EDGE - Dallas

Ives Galarcep is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering Major League Soccer and the U.S. national team.


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