As the Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas prepare to face off for the MLS Cup Final in Toronto, a member of Arsenal’s staff offers a unique perspective. Steve Morrow serves as the Club’s International Partnerships Manager. It’s a role that has given him a great deal of exposure to the ins and outs of Arsenal’s partner club in Major League Soccer, the Colorado Rapids.
But prior to taking that position, Morrow also picked up some intimate knowledge of FC Dallas. He served as the team’s head coach from 2006-2008.
USA.Arsenal.com’s Kevin Mooney caught up with Morrow to talk about both clubs, the growth of MLS and which team he thinks has an advantage in Sunday’s final.
USA.Arsenal.com: Can you give an example of how the relationship between Arsenal and Colorado Rapids has benefited the club?
Steve Morrow: “We placed one or two younger players from South America with Colorado. They adapted very well and it was a situation where they were able to go there and train with the first team for a few weeks instead of coming all the way to London.”
USA.Arsenal.com: Were you surprised that the Rapids made the MLS Cup Final this season?
Steve Morrow: “I think broadly speaking, many people would say it was a surprise, but I don’t see it as that big of a surprise. Having known Gary Smith so well and how he operates, how he coaches and how he organizes his team, I’m not too surprised.”
“I think it has a lot to do with how MLS is structured. It gives an opportunity to those teams who don’t necessarily finish as high up in the league as they expected, but managed to get into the playoffs. Obviously MLS is all about how you do when you get to the playoffs. I think the Rapids have a team that is well suited to that format.”
USA.Arsenal.com: How good is this team and could they compete in England?
Steve Morrow: “That’s something I’ve been asked before because of my experiences of managing a team in MLS and then coming back here and trying to draw those comparisons. I would suggest the best of MLS could potentially survive in the lower end of the Premiership, if not the top end of the Championship.”
“I do rate the league quite highly, probably more than people outside of the league do. Having worked there, I think it’s a better league than people give it credit for. It’s continuing to grow in the right direction. For me a good yardstick is how well they compete against the top teams from Europe who do ore-season tours. I think the MLS All-Star teams and even the individual franchises are competing very well against the top teams in their pre-seasons.”
USA.Arsenal.com: Is this Colorado team a budding powerhouse in MLS or is this Finals appearance a one-off?
Steve Morrow: “I hope this isn’t a one-off year! I think Gary is building a strong team. When he first came into this job he wanted to re-shape the team a little bit and build a team for the future. He’s got some good players, some experienced players and young players coming through as well and certainly Gary has put his stamp on that team. I think with the kind of team that Gary has, I don’t seeing it being a one-off. I see them being quite a force in MLS for seasons to come.”
USA.Arsenal.com: Which of the Rapids players stand out for you?
Steve Morrow: “Certainly the experience of Pablo Mastroeni, and Drew Moor is quite an experienced defender. Looking through the spine of the team there is Conor Casey up front, Omar Cummings and Brian Mullan who came in during mid-season to bring some experience. I think they have a good, strong group of players there. Players who are physically strong as well. They are a physical team to play against. The forwards they have also have the potential to score some goals.”
USA.Arsenal.com: Are there any players left on the Dallas roster from when you managed the team?
Steve Morrow: “I think there are a few players still there. Obviously the team changed quite significantly just after I left. Players seemed to move on a little bit. In particular when I checked the line-ups in recent week I saw Dax McCarty and Brek Shea playing. They were two young players I drafted in my time as coach there. It’s nice for me to see those young guys making such good progress. Eric Avila is another young player who got quite a few minutes this year too. I’m really pleased for those guys.”
USA.Arsenal.com: Do you have a sense of how good are FC Dallas are?
Steve Morrow: “I’ve seen one or two games – we’ve been watching MLS closely and obviously watching some players develop there as well.“
“I think they have gotten stronger as the season’s gone on. They hit form at the right time and they look a strong team defensively with an exciting attacking potential too.”
USA.Arsenal.com: Who are FC Dallas’ star players?
Steve Morrow: “David Ferreira – he has done very well for them. He’s actually a player who I tried to bring in when I was in Dallas, but it didn’t quite work out. After I left they managed to sign him. I think he has been very successful in MLS and has been playing consistently well for Dallas. He seems to be an important part of that team. Players like Dax McCarty and Brek Shea have contributed very well for them this year.”
USA.Arsenal.com: How does “soccer” play in American football-mad Texas?
Steve Morrow: “Every chance I get I try to promote MLS, because I think it’s a strong league and I think it’s getting stronger each year. Soccer sits as a sport – not just in Dallas and Texas, but across the country as well – behind football, basketball and baseball, but I think it’s starting to compete and it’s getting more time on television as well which is good to see. For me, it’s very positive and is moving in the right direction.”
“I think outside of the States, people still don’t know the league well enough to make a good judgment. I think what they do go on is the U.S. National team which has had reasonable success the last few years. I think people are starting to think a little better of MLS and American soccer.”
USA.Arsenal.com: Do you have a prediction for the final?
Steve Morrow: “I’m torn a little bit. With the time I spent in Dallas, I obviously have a great deal of fondness for the people and fans I met there. And obviously, my relationship with Gary Smith, I hope for Gary to do well too. I think Colorado will be a very difficult team to play against. It should be a great atmosphere up in Toronto which will help the occasion to. Toronto hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for Dallas in recent years so that could be a good omen for the Rapids.”Copyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source