Dallas Soccer DFW

FC Dallas 2 Real Salt 2 in season opener

Published 4/8/2007 8:59:13 AM by Scott McAllister from MLSnet.com

In his first game in charge as head coach of FC Dallas, Steve Morrow saw his team open a season on the road for the first time and fall behind for much of the second half. So when Carlos Ruiz scored a dramatic stoppage-time equalizer to grab a late 2-2 draw against Real Salt Lake, one would think Morrow would feel fortunate to leave with a point from his debut.

"Lucky is not the word I would use," said the FCD coach. "I think that we deserved to get a point out of the game."

Morrow felt that even through all the changes in personnel and philosophies for the 2007 season within FC Dallas, it was actually the Rice-Eccles artificial surface that caused the most havoc on his team's performance.

"I think the thing we found most difficult was playing on this surface," said Morrow. "We couldn't get into any rhythm. We're a team who likes to pass the ball. And we just couldn't get into the rhythm playing on this surface. The ball just never seemed to come down for us. We couldn't stream enough passes together and play how we wanted to play.

"We tried as much as we could to play at those conditions and get it to the front man early - how we like to play. Like I said, I think we deserved a point in the end."

Few look forward to playing on Salt Lake's artificial surface, as the ball reacts differently and moves much quicker than on natural grass. Some see it as an advantage to the home side, but Ruiz points out that both teams have to play on it.

"It's different, but it's different for both teams," said the FCD captain. "But, I think Salt Lake practices every day on this kind of field ... and we practice on real grass. If we play on whatever field, we need to play good."

The Hoops started the game well, jumping out to an early lead when Kenny Cooper latched on to the end of a sly ball put wide by Ruiz in the 19th minute. Cooper received the ball in a prime spot to beat Salt Lake 'keeper Nick Rimando.

"[In the past] I've benefited before from [Ruiz's] hold up play and his quality service," said Cooper, "and I did again today."

The Dallas pair combined for 24 goals in 2006 and appear to be picking up where they left off in the new season.

After Cooper's goal, Dallas looked to settle a bit until their defense was penetrated on two occasions, resulting in a pair of goals from Jeff Cunningham. It was not the start goalkeeper Shaka Hislop was looking for as he is filling in for first-choice 'keeper Dario Sala, who is serving a six-match suspension. However, Morrow chalked up the misplays in defense to opening day jitters.

"There is always a little bit of anxiety starting off in the first game of the season," said Morrow. "The boys are conscious of wanting to start well and get off to a good start. I think it was a little bit of anxiety more than anything."

Following numerous chances from Ramon Nunez, it was the new captain, Ruiz, who came through in the fourth minute of stoppage time to knock in the equalizing goal. Actually, Ruiz isn't completely positive he was the last to touch it, but until he's told otherwise, he said he'd take it.

"I think Nick [Rimando] touched the ball," said Ruiz, "and the defense touched the ball, and when I jumped felt that I touched the ball, too. I don't know if the league will give me the goal ... but I'll take it!"

The ending was pleasing for Morrow and his team. Although he saw plenty of things to work on, he was impressed with how his players fought hard to the final whistle -- and glad they were rewarded for their efforts.

"It's a good lesson to the players - and I think they realized - that they had to play right to the end. The game's never over until the final whistle," said Morrow. "There's always time to score."
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