Mostly because it might be kickoff before I get this done. I have to work on my time management skills.
You are cordially tolerated: As has been pointed out a couple of times, this year's game really isn't for the vast teeming hordes. This is about whether Dallas or Colorado fans get to gloat. The rest is for historical purposes. Even if this ends up being The Greatest Game Ever Played, it's not going to get the kind of attention that would win new fans.
Again - spit happens. Baseball was given one of the most interesting, likeable World Series champions in recent memory, but the ratings were garbage for a number of reasons that don't concern we, the soccer fan. But baseball isn't going to disappear because of it. The Super Bowl had a couple of what could charitably be called mid-market teams. Big boy, grown-up leagues are willing to let each team compete.
But so what if you're not interested. Again - they care a lot in Dallas and Denver - well, no, soccer fans in Dallas and Denver care a lot. Hopefully this game can bring in some of the more casual, skeptical fans in those cities. Anything more than that isn't gravy - it's irrelevant. Cheer up, maybe Nery Castillo will be in a championship game someday.
But hey, at least the game will suck. To an objective viewer, that is. Actual fans with an emotional stake in this game won't mind that this is going to be a slog. It's a very, very rare MLS Cup competitor that brings all of its talents to the game without getting all conservative and fearful. Columbus 2008 and San Jose 2003 are the bright exceptions, along with a couple of the DC United teams. Usually, the majesty and glory of the occasion overwhelms coaches and players.
Yeah, I know, your Eurosnob friends sniff at the idea that anyone would care about a mere domestic championship. And yeah, maybe an uncomfortably high percentage of the players today would ditch the game in exchange for a Chelsea tryout. So it won't be beautiful. It'll be tough, and intense, and will be fought every step of the way.
Wait, Ferreira can play pretty. Maybe he'll dominate again. And all we've read about this week is how dazzling the ex-Burn are. This would be a showcase. Yeah, it's possible. Don't bet the ant colony on it, though.
First of all, Simon Borg calling Dallas "dynamic" is so unfortunate that it had to be deliberate. I look forward next year to the Crew being on fire, and the Red Bulls being united in the locker room.
And here's a quick quiz - how many more goals did Dallas score than Colorado this past regular season? The answer, as you will have guessed simply by seeing the question, is -2. Rapids 44, FC 42. Colorado tied for second in total goals scored this year.
So we've been unfair to the stylish Rapids all this time? Oh, God no. Quite a few of the Rapids goals were pouring it on Houston, Philadelphia and Chivas USA. The Rapids you've seen in the playoffs are the Rapids you're likely to see today - very tough, unlikely to make mistakes and unlikely to take chances.
Crap, so the Rapids will try for penalties. Not if they're smart. Those penalty kick shootout wins against Dallas sure stick out in institutional memory, but Kevin Hartman had nothing to do with those shootouts. This game could go to overtime, but I think somebody breaks through for the win.
Who do you think that will be?
Well...I used to do these really elaborate, player by player previews, on the grounds that it's usually one of the non-stars that come through. Back in the day, there didn't seem to be as many previews. Now, there are a bunch of really good ones (sorry if I forgot any).
Still, we owe it to these guys, don't we? Let's meet your likely lineups.
For your Eastern Conference Champs - yeah, it's still funny
MATT PICKENS - Currently auditioning for the role of Moses in the Commerce City Community Theater's production of the new musical "Commandments!" Not the first Rapids keeper to have played very well after European club aggravation. Probably as good as he was in 2007, simply getting lost in the shuffle of all the great keepers MLS has these days. Statistically unlikely to give up two goals in stoppage time. His favorite movies are Troy and Top Gun, unless he was just trolling that part of the questionnaire.
KOSUKE KIMURA - Easily one of the most accomplished Japanese defenders in the history of Western Illinois University. Widely considered to suck - at least, widely considered by me to suck - but wow, did he own the Earthquakes. If that's the real Kimura, then Brek Shea is in for a long afternoon, and frankly so are we, if we're into things like "goals."
DREW MOOR - one of the mainstays of the Dallas defense...wait, this is from 2008. One assumes that he will find motivation in a championship game against his former team from somewhere. One also assumes that there's nothing Harris or Cunningham will bring that he hasn't seen, although he doesn't know from Ferreira any more than the rest of the league. Enjoys country and alternative music. Hopefully combined rather than separately, but this is no place for my music criticism.
MARVELL WYNNE - I saw this guy for the Nats U-whatevers, and I thought this guy was Superman. I still get mocked for that in some quarters, but I won't name names. I wouldn't have thought central defense was his deal, but Gary Smith is a LOT smarter than John Cummings. Unlikely to be outhustled or outhustled by a joke like Atiba Harris. His favorite book is "Atlas Shrugged," feeding into my theory that these guys fill out these forms just to see the look on my face.
ANTHONY WALLACE - Started every game for Colorado in the playoffs so far. Being on paper the weak link of this defense is no insult, but he will have to be extremely attentive towards Marvin Chavez. Wallace, like Moor, was dumped by today's opponent, so he too has something to prove. His nickname, true the proud tradition of soccer players' limitless creativity, is "Wally."
BRIAN MULLAN - Shirt-Pullin' Mullan seeks to join ex-teammates Alejandro Moreno and Ezra Hendrickson in the Three Teams, Three Rings Club. (Said club considers Earthquakes 2.0 and Dynamo to be just one team.) In other words, this ain't his first rodeo, pardner. Probably the key piece that turned the Rapids from irritant to irritating finalist. Belongs to the same book club as Marvell Wynne, apparently.
JEFF LARENTOWICZ - President and CEO of the So Underrated He's Overrated Club. I'm sure New England had very good reasons for letting him go. (Not that the management teams involved in today's game get any compliments. Either Kroenke's team gets a ring, or HSG gets their second in three years, with Checketts in the middle.) An Ivy Leaguer, if Brown counts as Ivy League. Seriously. Dumbest guy I met in my whole life? Brown graduate. Definitely good enough to slow down Ferreira, and he'll have help, too.
PABLO MASTROENI - the Maestro! The Duke of Burgundy! This is actually his first rodeo. Will this young phenom crack under the pressure of his first MLS Cup match? Alternatively, will he say "Hell, I got a red card in the freaking World Cup, might as well get one here"? Dario Sala put him back in the news this week, but Dario Sala's kind of stupid.
JAMIE SMITH - when you read all week about whether a guy will recover from injury in time to play in the final? He'll play. Coulda been a contender for Scotland, but is a godsend for Smith's Rapids. Colorado could survive Wells Thompson here, too, but they'd have to be very sharp. Might take the Aberdeen side in the great debate on Groundskeeper Willie's hometown, assuming one asks every Scotsman one meets that question.
CONOR CASEY - he jumps in the air and hits the ball into the net with his big shiny head. Other facets to his game have gone unnoticed by me. His favorite book is - oh, come on. Does the team just have the one copy that they pass around, or what?
OMAR CUMMINGS - as with Casey, if he played the Galaxy every week he'd be a Hall of Famer. Which is a polite way of saying consistency might be an issue. There's not a team in the league that wouldn't take him, but was put completely out of business last week by the pretty-average Quakes, so, there you go. Schellas Hyndman has a plan for him. Because, DUH.
AND THE REST - Wells Thompson has a past. If he had done all that stuff in Chicago in the 80's, he'd be Ferris Bueller. Macoumba Kandji is about the only guy the Rapids have for a late gamechanger. So, yeah. Although it's possible that Colorado fans will scream "God Bless Amarikwa!" I'm very sorry.
GARY SMITH, coach - had one of the easiest acts to follow in MLS history, including Bruce Arena in Los Angeles. Seeing how long Clavijo lasted, Smith undoubtedly has a job for life. We will all come to hate him and his conservative gameplans, but what was he supposed to do? There are only so many ways to rebuild a team, and, to paraphrase Rick Pitino, Jomo Sono isn't walking through that door.
The Western Conference hasn't won an MLS Cup since 2007. Technically. It's complicated.
KEVIN HARTMAN - Left for DEAD at the beginning of the year. Left for deader after that awful Open Cup game. No quit in this cat. I look forward to years of furious arguments about El Gato in the Hall of Fame. Perhaps unreasonable to expect another soul-rending performance, but Buddle and Landon were just helpless last week. And I'd still read "Boots Saves the Day" to my kids.
JACKSON (GONCALVES) - Heath Pearce was having a landmark season, but Seems pretty useful. 5'9" and 154 isn't necessarily what you'd think would work against Casey and Cummings, but the guy's looked good so far. Really should trade jersey numbers with Jair Benitez.
GEORGE JOHN - Another example of how well, and quickly, you can rebuild an MLS team. Despite his last name, not from Trinidad. He is actually big enough to handle Casey, which is what, amazingly enough, is what he will be asked to do. That's why they give Hyndman the big bucks. This could be a career-changing game for John - well this is also true if Casey rolls over him and gets a hat trick.
UGO IHEMELU - For a refreshing change, someone on Dallas with something to prove to the Rapids. As a rookie helped save MLS Cup for the Galaxy, in Pizza Hut Park. Shutting off Cummings will go a long way towards earning the forgiveness of Dallas fans. His college coach thinks the world of him, I assume.
JAIR BENITEZ - If Dallas doesn't decide to keep him, he'll be goin' back to Deportivo. Wait, let me try that joke again. Dallas is playing for the championship with a backline completely reconstructed from 2008. I can't get over that. They handled the Galaxy, they should do pretty well against the Rapids. Like everyone else on the back line except John, though, might be a little short in the air. Just something to be concerned about.
DANIEL HERNANDEZ - another guy highly recommended by his college coach. I think very little of his game in normal circumstances, but the guy is perfect for the sort of game Colorado is likely to bring - and, crucially, he's a serious free kick threat. He might be the one eating the hero cake tonight. Just something to be concerned about. His favorite cuisine is Mexican, even though I'd have thought a guy from Tyler, Texas would like barbecue. But this isn't the place for my culinary opinions.
DAX McCARTY - the Little Red Machine. I thought he could have been the American Didi Deschamps - well, he's only 23, it's nowhere near too late. Getting back in the Nat picture by winning this game would help, though. He says his model player is Paul Scholes, but he's wrong, it should be Deschamps. Someone tell him for me.
DAVID FERREIRA - reasonably valuable. One might even say quite valuable. At 31, maybe not a long-term option, but Dallas should make SOME kind of offer for him. Not absolutely crucial to a Dallas victory, but close enough.
MARVIN CHAVEZ - this is the guy who will make or break the game for Dallas. Maybe. Couldn't hurt. Yet another South American loan player, which is going to be the template for MLS makeovers for years to come. Thank God. Maybe even Paul Gardner will watch MLS now. On the down side, he's 27, teeny-tiny, and November Northern hemisphere weather might not be his ideal milieu. His hobbies include deep-sea tuna fishing, backgammon, and Antarctic photosafari tours. For all I know, anyway.
BREK SHEA - You wouldn't find two people in the country who count "Troy" as one of their favorite movies, and yet, they'll line up against each other today. As Daria said, it's a sick, sad world. Made his professional and MLS debut at Chivas USA on April 20 as a substitute for Blake Wagner in the 86th and picked up his first yellow card four minutes later" - says it all, really. Look for a demolition derby between Shea and Moor, or better still, look away.
JEFF CUNNINGHAM - because I'm in denial about Atiba Harris starting. When Atiba was trying out for Salt Lake, then-DCU coach Peter Nowak allegedly yelled "Send that guy back to Africa," which Nowak claimed was actually "Send that guy back to hospital." This Jeff Carlisle article from the time encapsulated the confusing situation - it wasn't a very convincing excuse, seeing as how MLS didn't buy it. But, as it turned out, Harris was and is a dangerous, garbage player. Which wouldn't excuse racism, except, Nowak hasn't been boycotted by all his African-American players since then. Cunningham would give the Rapids many more problems, as well as the always reliable motivation to beat his former team, but Hyndman must know what he's doing. I don't want to live in a world where Atiba Harris is an MLS Cup hero, though.
AND THE REST - Bruno Guarda should provide the spark off the bench to - no, just kidding, obviously. Eric Avila, Zach Loyd and Eric Alexander highlight a very, very young bench (with the exception of Cunningham). I think they have more options than the Rapids.
SCHELLAS HYNDMAN, coach - I must have apologized for calling him incompetent and worthless last year or the year before by now. Both Hyndman and Smith built very good rosters with very little. I hate to horrify you, but we'll see these coaches, and these teams, again and again in coming years. I'd be tempted to humbly vow to give coaches a chance from now on - although it's too late for Martin Vasquez - but how many decades did Dallas give Mike Jeffries? Or Andrulis in Columbus, or nearly every coach in Rapids history? Hyndman clearly had a good plan, though.
So who's going to win, already?
Dallas, 2-1, in overtime. It'll be educational, but it won't be fun. Shut up and eat your vegetables, in other words.