After a lackluster first half during which the only excitement came when the visiting team’s equipment manager was ejected for yelling at the referee, last night’s match between D.C. United and FC Dallas suddenly exploded after the break.
However, the sparks did not come from United but from the one player the home team knew it needed to contain: Carlos Ruiz, nicknamed “the Little Fish” for the way he wriggles around defenders.
Ruiz, one of Major League’s Soccer most dangerous forwards and 2002 league MVP, scored on a beautiful bicycle kick and added a penalty kick to defeat United 2-0 last night before 16,624 at RFK Stadium.
“We were too predictable,” said United coach Peter Nowak. “When we go forward, we need five, six, seven touches. … We played too slow. At this level, you have to play one-two touches.”
FC Dallas (6-1-3, 21 points) is now unbeaten in five games while United (3-4-2, 11 points) is still seeking to put together a string of wins.
The two teams played a tight game in the first half with both defenses containing the opposing forwards. But the game lacked creativity and not a shot on goal was recorded. All the spectators got was ugly soccer and 26 fouls.
But the deadlock ended just four minutes after intermission, with Ruiz producing the magic.
FC Dallas forward Roberto Mina, making his first start, beat the United defense and chipped the ball from just inside the 18-yard box to Ruiz, who had escaped defender Bryan Namoff. With his back to the goal from 10 yards out, Ruiz performed a perfect bicycle kick, powerfully sending the ball past United goalie Nick Rimando, who barely moved. It was a goal that certainly will be shown on MLS highlight reels.
And the damage was just beginning for United.
Five minutes later, Ruiz tore through the United defense and lobbed the ball over the onrushing Rimando. It appeared Ruiz might have overrun the ball, but before he could attempt to shoot into the open goal, Namoff came up from behind to get tangled up with Ruiz and bring him down.
Dallas was awarded a penalty kick, and Ruiz sent the ball low and to Rimando’s left for his seventh goal of the season in the 56th minute.
The Guatemalan striker has now scored 57 goals in 89 MLS games.
“The first goal was spectacular, there was not much you could do about it and all credit to Ruiz,” said rookie United defender Bobby Boswell, who managed to check Ruiz for most of the first half. “In the second half, we lost track of him, and we have to take the blame at the back. With a guy like that you can’t take your eyes off him.”
Belatedly, United seem to wake up after the goals. Dema Kovalenko, making his first start of the season, had a shot sail wide in the 69th minute and soon after, Jaime Moreno had United’s best chance when he hit the post inside the 6-yard box in the 70th minute after collecting a lovely flick from Christian Gomez.
Freddy Adu, playing in place of the suspended Josh Gros and earning his fourth start in nine games, was kept relatively quiet on the far right flank most of the night. But the 15-year-old, who will be away with the U.S. under-20 team at the Youth Championship in the Netherlands all next month, did track back to defend.
“Dallas is such a good team at sitting in,” Adu said. “We tried all night to break them down, but their defense was too compact. … I felt I could have played a lot better.”
Notes — United has released El Salvadoran midfielder Eliseo Quintanilla at his own request. Quintanilla missed all last season because of a broken leg and has not played for the club this season. … The club signed defender John Wilson, 27, late Friday.