Smith hammers home underdog role for Rapids

TORONTO – This just in: The Colorado Rapids are underdogs at MLS Cup.

At least, that’s the card played again Thursday night by Rapids head coach Gary Smith not long after his team stepped onto Canadian soil.

Smith and the Rapids – who are in search of the first MLS title in franchise history – take on FC Dallas at BMO Field in Toronto on Sunday (8:30 pm ET, ESPN, Galavisión, TM2).

“When you’re classed as an underdog, there aren’t too many expectations,” Smith said. “The only expectations there’ll be from our group will be inside that locker room come Sunday evening.

“For Dallas, it’s slightly different now,” Smith continued. “The expectations were minimal for them going into LA, they were the underdogs there, and they produced. The difference is, now they’re under some pressure.”

FC Dallas were installed as the favorite to win their first MLS Cup by most observers not long after they dismantled the LA Galaxy 3-0 in last Sunday’s Western Conference Championship. FCD carried the underdog tag into a Western Conference semifinal series against Real Salt Lake as well, but it’s tough to imagine anyone can overlook coach Schellas Hyndman’s crew now after toppling the Supporters' Shield winner and the defending MLS champions.

Smith knows that, and he’s lobbied hard this week to perpetuate the dynamic.

“The expectations [for FCD] have been raised," he said. "The bar, for them, has been raised. Now they’ve got to produce under some more pressure. I’m sure it’ll be tougher for them with [the media] sticking these microphones under their noses, saying they’re favorites to win.”

The Rapids, meanwhile, have happily played under the radar during both the regular season and the playoffs, and needed a late surge down the stretch to even reach the postseason. That’s not likely to change in the hours leading up to MLS Cup, and Smith, for one, doesn’t seem inclined to let it go.

“The team with the best players and the players that can perform under pressure – more so for them now, of course, because they’re the favorites – will be the team that lifts the Cup,” Smith said.

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