Dallas looks to stop Rapids duo in MLS Cup final
Colorado forwards Casey and Cummings scored 27 goals in regular season
Neither Conor Casey nor Omar Cummings was named to Major League Soccer's end-of-season all-star team.
But that doesn't mean they aren't dangerous. They are — very dangerous, in fact.
Casey and Cummings combined to score a whopping 27 goals during the regular season, and played a pivotal role in helping the Colorado Rapids qualify for its first MLS Cup final since 1997.
Both strikers will be at the forefront once more as Colorado tries to claim its first-ever league championship with a win against FC Dallas in Sunday's MLS Cup final at Toronto's BMO Field.
"Omar is really getting his game going. He's at full stride right now, playing the best I've seen him play," said Dallas defender Ugo Ihemelu. "Conor has a lot of experience and he's a talented player that can lift the game when he has the opportunity."
The Dallas defence, anchored by Ihemelu and fellow centre-back George John, expects to have its hands full with the deadly duo.
"They're going to be tough to deal with; they're going to be a handful. They're the best attacking combo in the league," said Ihemelu.
A former teammate of the Colorado forwards, Ihemelu believes the tandem is so successful because they each have strong qualities that complement the other.
"Omar is more athletic, he's fast and trickier with the ball at his feet. Conor is big, and strong in the air," said Ihemelu. "Omar gets into the gap and provides a lot of assists for Conor. They run well off one another, so I think George and I are going to have to be on the same page to deal with those two."
It's a tough task for Ihemelu and John, which is why Dallas midfielder and captain Daniel Hernandez believes stopping Casey and Cummings can't be left entirely to the defence.
"In my eyes, Ugo and George are two of the top defenders in the league. It's going to be a battle, but by no means can they do it alone," said Hernandez.
"We have to defend as a team, and that's one of my responsibilities, is to act as a sweeper in front of the defence and help them out as possible. With two great forwards, it's going to make things difficult."
Hernandez later added: "What we've done all year is defend as a team. You can't do it with one-on-one defending. … With a mixture of the midfield and the [back four] all defending together, I think we'll be fine."
Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman echoed his captain's sentiments, stressing the importance of his team needing to win the battle for the ball in midfield in order to cut off the service to Casey and Cummings.
"What [Colorado] is very good at as is winning the ball in midfield and making that first pass," said Hyndman. "It can be a one-touch pass into space, or just a quick control and pass, and they all know Omar is going to get onto the end of it. The Rapids have a remarkable chemistry with their midfield and forwards."
According to Hyndman, his central defenders have to keep close tabs on Conor and Cummings, even when Dallas isn't in possession, because that's when the Colorado forwards are most dangerous.
"Ugo and George have to always have an eye on them. Even if we may have the ball, have an eye on them and be close to them because at any moment we could lose the ball and they could go on a run," said the Dallas coach.