COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — The Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas seem to be jockeying for position as to who is the biggest underdog and most unfashionable team heading into MLS Cup this weekend.
Indeed, when it was suggested in a Monday conference call that FCD were, atypically, no longer the underdog, head coach Schellas Hyndman balked at the suggestion.
“We don’t like [not being the underdogs],” Hyndman said. “That’s a little unusual for us.”
Unusual though it may be, Rapids head coach Gary Smith isn't letting his counterpart get away with that one.
“You can’t be Coach of the Year, you can’t win 3-0 away from home [against LA in the conference final] and you can’t break all the records they have and still be underdogs,” Smith said on Tuesday. “It can’t happen. If he comes out and says I shouldn’t have been Coach of the Year, we shouldn’t have won 3-0 away from home and, by the way, all those records are a joke, then he can use the underdog tag. They aren’t [underdogs], we are. We have to be. There is no way they can be underdogs.”
Smith’s claim received a boost from an unlikely source on Sunday after the Western Conference Championship: FCD captain Daniel Hernandez. After the team’s comprehensive 3-0 victory over the LA Galaxy on Sunday, Hernandez said, “no disrespect to the Eastern Conference, but tonight was the championship.”
“I put that up on the board,” Smith countered. “The players were very interested in it. It’s almost as if we were immaterial.”
FC Dallas’ road to MLS Cup went through Real Salt Lake and the Galaxy, the two top point-getters in the league, and also compiled an MLS record 19-game unbeaten streak during the regular season.
“The way they are speaking, we may as well not turn up,” Smith said. “We’ll just get changed, walk out onto the field and they can just raise the cup. The way they have played, the way they dismantled LA, has to make them favorites. But we are more than capable of beating them. I have no lack of confidence in what this team can produce.”
But formations, talent and MVP candidate David Ferreira aside, the playoffs have proven that anything can happen. So who will win MLS Cup?
“It will be the team that grits their teeth and gets on with it,” Smith said.
Underdog or not.
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