TORONTO – FC Dallas have gone up against a couple of tough midfield duos in these MLS Cup Playoffs. Fleet-footed Javier Morales and do-it-all maestro Kyle Beckerman with Real Salt Lake. Hard-nosed Dema Kovalenko and nimble Juninho with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
But according to FCD midfielder Dax McCarty, their biggest challenge yet is standing in front of them in Sunday’s MLS Cup final (8:30 p.m., ESPN/Galavisión/TSN2): Colorado’s Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz. They are, as McCarty puts it, “the spine” of the Rapids.
“Both guys aren’t pure all-out holding midfielders or attacking mids,” McCarty said on Thursday, “they’re both kind of two-way guys who are really the engine of the team.”
WATCH: McCarty, Loyd on Colorado
Colorado captain Mastroeni has enjoyed a career renaissance at age 34, turning in perhaps his best season in his ninth year with the Rapids. And with the acquisition of veteran Larentowicz – who arrived at DSG Park from New England via a five-player preseason deal – Colorado have a midfield nucleus that is arguably the biggest reason they’ve got a shot at their first-ever MLS Cup title.
[inline_node:323654]According to FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman, without Mastroeni and Larentowicz pulling the strings, it’s highly unlikely that Conor Casey and Omar Cummings combine for 27 goals, the highest combined total of any front pairing in league history.
That said, Dallas know their own solid midfield pairing of McCarty and captain Daniel Hernandez is no slouch either. If FCD win the battle of the midfield, they have a good shot a hoisting their first-ever MLS Cup trophy.
“I think our midfield has been tremendous this year,” Hyndman added. “We’re getting the best out of Daniel Hernandez. He’s not just the anchor back in the middle third, but he’s also the captain of the team as well, a bit of an inspirational player and also my right hand on the field.”
McCarty agrees, saying Hernandez – acquired last September – was the missing piece Dallas needed to complete the puzzle. With the Tyler, Texas, native backing him up, he believes FCD have the muscle to beat Colorado’s deadly tandem – but it’ll be a fight to the final whistle.
“It’s certainly not going to be easy for us in the middle,” he said.
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