Ten years ago, on November 21, 2010, the Colorado Rapids won their first MLS Cup. While Colorado was viewed as an MLS underdog in the national eye, the Rapids knew all season long that this team was different.
In honor of the anniversary of the 2010 Cup, the players describe, in their own words, how it felt to be a part of that team and win the first championship for the club.
Pablo Mastroeni, midfielder and team captain: There’s highs and lows within every season. For our team that year, there were a lot of ups and downs. We were able to navigate the lows to a point where it didn’t leave us behind. I think that fight to remain relevant in tough times really started to build character in that group.
Drew Moor, defender: We didn’t have by any means the best record in the league that season, we might have even kind of snuck into the playoffs. But I don’t think there was any moment where we didn’t think or believe going into it that we weren’t going to win. And that’s obviously a very powerful thing.
Omar Cummings, forward: We won as a team and lost as a team, and I think that cohesiveness really made us what we were.
Marvell Wynne, defender: We kind of had a relaxed but confident vibe about us… We were tough as nails.
Moor: When we were on the field, it was war. Whether it was training or games… We were assassins on the field. We wanted to win everything.
Ciaran O’Brien, midfielder: We were definitely underdogs, but I think the guys knew if we could get to the playoffs that it was anyone’s cup to win.
The team made the playoffs and was seeded into the Eastern Conference, due to the MLS rules and structure in 2010. The first round started against Columbus at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park and resulted in a 1-0 win for the home side. In the second leg, the Crew topped the Rapids 2-1, with the single goal for Colorado coming from Connor Casey in the 84th minute, bringing the score line to 2-2 on aggregate. Colorado advanced on penalty kicks.
Next up, the Rapids hoisted the Eastern Conference trophy on their home turf with a 1-0 home win over San Jose. In the final, they were slated to face fellow MLS original and Western Conference rival, FC Dallas.
The Rapids went down in the first half when David Ferreira, the MLS MVP, finished a cross for Dallas in the 35th minute to take a 1-0 lead.
Moor: When we went down in that game, nobody panicked, nobody thought, "This is it, we’ve come this far, it was a good run," you know. We remained calm throughout halftime, we came out in the second half, and we did our jobs.
In the 57th minute, Connor Casey slotted home a goal to level the score, 1-1.
The match remained knotted for the duration of the second half. The game then went to extra time.
In the 98th minute, Macoumba Kandji entered the game for Cummings.
Kandji, forward: Even though it was very cold on the bench, I kept myself ready… I always knew that whenever they needed something to happen, [head coach] Gary Smith would look over to me and know that I could help the team… I wanted to go in and have fun and try to help the team in every way possible.
Nine minutes later, in the 107th minute, Kandji hit a deflection in off Dallas defender to take the 2-1 lead.
Mastroeni: Kandji ends up taking an ACL tear, and we score on their own goal on the same play.
Kandji: I recall Brian Mullan running to me and celebrating while I couldn’t feel my left knee, rolling on the ground. Everyone was celebrating, you know, “We scored! We scored!” and I at the same time was like, “My knee!” But I was thinking that it was maybe a small strain or whatever. I didn’t believe it was a torn ACL.
Mastroeni: The next part of it, when we’re playing down a man for 15 minutes because we had used all our subs, is even more a reflection of the group. We’re now just diving around the field, plugging holes wherever we can, knowing that we’re behind it a bit, they’re getting momentum. They’re throwing everything but the kitchen sink forward, and we’re holding off wave after wave of attacks.
O’Brien: It seemed like the game would never end.
Moor: It was a goal kick for us, and I looked at [head referee] Baldomero Toledo and said, “Hey, how much time?” And he said, “It’s done.” So, I knew he was going to blow his whistle as soon as [Matt] Pickens took the goal kick.
Paul Bravo, technical director: I remember being in the tunnel and just praying that that whistle was going to go off, with us in that lead, because you don’t get those moments.
Mastroeni: One of the best moments of my playing career was looking over, seeing Baldomero Toledo put the whistle in his mouth and realizing, “Oh my God, this is really going to happen.” And then it just goes all blurry from there.
Final – Colorado 2, FC Dallas 1
Bravo: When the whistle went off, we were a unit and celebrating together. Even through a lot of our differences on and off the field, that was perhaps the crowning moment for me.
Wynne: I remember just jumping, screaming, looking around for someone to hug, and poor little Kosuke [Kimura] was the first guy, and I think I just swallowed him up whole. And just started screaming at the top of my lungs.
Moor: You really can’t explain the moment. It’s one moment. It’s a short moment, but it’s a feeling that everything you put together since January (came together). It’s a long season, it’s a grind. It was a dark, cold, windy night in Toronto, but everything just culminated in what you play for, what you work for, what you sacrifice everything you for, what you come in here into the stadium, into the locker room every day for. Miss a lot of time at home, spend a lot of time on airplanes, on busses, being frustrated, being injured, all those things. That one moment. It’s just elation. Joy. Not relief, not, “Hey, we’ve done it.” Just pure joy that you can’t really explain.
Cummings: First person I ran over when the game was over was Kandji… He scored that goal that gave us a championship, you know, and got hurt in the process. Definitely that’s the person I felt like I needed to go to, to celebrate with.
Kandji: I did have a bittersweet moment at that time, tearing my ACL... To be honest, I would do it all over again to win a championship. The ACL will heal, and you will be back playing again, but the championship is going to last forever. And you’re going to be forever in history.
O’Brien: Running onto the field after the game was pretty special, even though I didn’t play in the final, I still really felt I was part of what we accomplished… When Pablo lifted the trophy, it was very cool to be a part of that.
Mastroeni: I was saying to myself, “I can’t believe this is happening.” You get to a point in your career where you wonder, “Is it ever going to happen?” For that group of guys to lift that trophy, I think it says a lot of the human spirit. I think it says a lot of belief when no one else has that in you. For that moment, I just couldn’t believe that we were champions… and it was a title that would never be taken away from us.
Wynne: It was an explosion of all the frustrations of the year, and every goal, and every play and every 50/50, every header, everything – and all the excitement just spurted out all at once. I lost it. I think I blacked out.
Cummings: From then it was a celebration with everyone, you know. It was a party. Let’s get this party started. (Laughs)
Kandji: I enjoyed the moment in the locker room after we won, but I couldn’t walk. The pain was very bad. I was planning on doing something after the game. I was planning for us to win and go out and celebrating, but I couldn’t because I couldn’t even walk. But the next day, when we flew back to Colorado, there were fans all over the place.
Bravo: All I ever wanted was to be able to share that with our fans. That moment, that trophy, because I thought our fans deserve that. For me, that was giving back. My passion for our club, my passion for our fans, it’s not about any one individual. It’s about us as a club, being a club. For our 15 years we’d been a club, that was perhaps our one moment where we all had smiles on our face. And that’s our job as players, coaches, front office, is to bring happiness to everybody. Our fans, our sponsors, those people who have stuck with us through thick and thin.
Mastroeni: The trophy – whether it’s money, whether it’s fame, whether it’s actually hardware – is nothing more than a symbol of all the hard work, and, more importantly, the experiences you had with other fellow human beings to get to that moment. In other words, money is empty, trophies are empty, titles are empty, unless you have the experiences and great people to share them with. That’s what I discovered. It’s not about the trophy. It’s about the journey.