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MLS Cup champs beat Whitecaps in final preseason game

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There’s something about Canada that brings out the best in Jamie Smith.

The Colorado Rapids’ midfielder scored the only goal as the MLS Cup champs beat the Whitecaps 1-0 in Vancouver Saturday in the teams’ final tuneup before the season kicks off.

Smith was one of the best players on the pitch in the Rapids’ last game in Canada, a 2-1 extra time win over FC Dallas in the 2010 MLS Cup held at BMO Field. He and fellow central midfielder Pablo Mastroeni bossed that game, imposing their physical presences on a FCD team that couldn’t deal with how well the Rapids were marking its players all over the field. On press row that night, there were more than a few journalists who whispered that Smith was more deserving of the MVP award than striker Conor Casey.

For Vancouver fans, the key talking point was the play of Designated Player Eric Hassli, who had a couple of cracks at goal, one which tested Rapids keeper Troy Perkins. Hassli made it through 58 minutes of action before being subbed out for teenager Omar Salgado, who will wait until he turns 18 in September before being eligible to play in an MLS game for the Whitecaps.

The Rapids started a full-strength lineup,but usual starting right back Kosuke Kimura was withdrawn by coach Gary Smith before kickoff. While it hasn’t been confirmed if that move was because of injury or emotional distress, there is no faulting Kimura if the horrible earthquake and tsunami which have ravaged his homeland is weighing heavily on his mind at the moment. Kimura confirmed earlier that his family is OK.

Jamie Smith

The Rapids’ boss started as full-strength lineup as possible, even with the omission of Kimura. The Rapids may not be as deep or as talented as Real Salt Lake, but when it comes to being physical on the pitch, no MLS team can match the Rapids. The size and commitment that the Rapids have puts their opponents under a lot of pressure, from the size and strength of Casey in the box, to the speed of Omar Cummings coming from the channels. Mastroeni and Jamie Smith can simply dominate the middle of the park and intimidate opponents trying to come through them.

So, ahead of next weekend’s home opener against Toronto FC, the Whitecaps should be thankful that Gary Smith gave them as tough a test as they could hope for in a final preseason warmup.

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