In their 10th season the 2005 Colorado Rapids exceeded expectations by steadily increasi ng their productivity on the field under first year Head Coach Fernando Clavijo. The team’s season accelerated gradually and culminated wi th the Black & Blue advancing to host the Western Conference Championship match, where the team succumbed to the eventual MLS Cup Champion Los Angeles Galaxy.
Clavijo was able to lead his inaugural Rapids squad to the club’s secondhighest poi nt total in team history. Cl avijo, a former US international, came aboard in December and reshaped the face of the team before and during the season. One of Clavijo’s biggest acquisi tions was forward Jeff Cunningham, who battled injuries early but overcame them to finish tied for third in the league in goalscoring with 12 on the season.
Cunningham and other new acquisitions like Israeli midfielder Dedi BenDayan, veteran MLS defender Mike Petke, and explosive prodigy Fabrice Noel took a while to gel, but the Rapids got hot during the summer. Colorado posted a 411 combined record in July and August, with their only defeat coming to the Supporters Shield winners, San Jose, in the midst of the club’s victories over three Eastern Conference playoff sides. In October the Rapids won their first piece of hardware in franchise history when they defeated Real Salt Lake to claim the Rocky Mountain Cup trophy its inaugural year, while simultaneously solidifying their playoff position.
Colorado entered the 2005 MLS Playoffs as the number three seed in the West and faced FC Dallas in the opening round. The two sides battled to a scoreless draw at INVESCO Field at Mile High on October 22 in the first leg before traveling to Dallas.
In the second leg Colorado took a first half lead behind a Cunningham goal but conceded an equalizer in the second half while playing a man down. In the overtime period, Dallas struck first but just a minute later Ritchie Kotschau equalized for Colorado. Goalkeeper Joe Cannon made the score line stand with multiple amazing saves and the game went to a penalty shootout. The first eight shooters scored but then Cannon saved a shot by Roberto Mina and Jean Philippe Peguero stepped up and knocked home to send the Rapids to the Western Conference Championship match for the first time since 1997 in what many consi der to be one of the most dramatic games in MLS that year.
The Rapids hosted the Western Conference Championship match on November 5, the first time the club has ever hosted a singlegame Conference Championship game, and the club’s first trip to a Conference Championship game since 1997. The Black & Blue battled valiantly against the eventual MLS Cup Champion Los Angeles Galaxy, but a brace by Landon Donovan ended the game 20 and put the cap on a remarkable Colorado Rapids season.