Facing significant absences for the first time all season, FC Dallas faced a real test of their depth and character last weekend when they traveled to Washington to face D.C. United.
Missing forward Eddie Johnson and defender Greg Vanney to national team duty -- not to mention Richard Mulrooney, who could have been in that group had he not suffered a season-ending torn ACL in his knee -- the team was put to the test of how strong they would be with key pieces gone from the lineup.
If last Saturday's match was any indication of the depth of FC Dallas, then the road is paved with gold as far as the team is concerned. The Hoops controlled the majority of the game, winning convincingly by a 2-0 scoreline.
"We have a lot of really good depth. I think the coaches have brought some good players in, players that can help this team out," said FCD defender Clarence Goodson. "There are so many guys that can step in and do the job. A lot of really good players on the team could start for other teams."
"I knew it was a goal when [Ruiz] kicked it, because he has done this in practice while playing soccer tennis," Goodson said.
The other goal came from a ball that was headed to the Guatemalan international by defender Chris Gbandi, Ruiz then fouled from behind in the penalty area. He then calmly and accurately struck for the second goal to take over the league lead in scoring.
But while Ruiz has been a regular since Day One, it's the other players who filled into the FCD lineup that had as much impact on the victory. Steve Jolley was inserted in the lineup for the first time this year, replacing Vanney in the back four.
"All the credit for the boys now our squad has more depth but we knew that. I think Steve Jolley has been working awfully hard," said FCD midfielder and captain Simo Valakari. "That's the shocking thing -- when you get your one chance you have to be ready. You have to grab your choice with both hands. I think with our team we stuck to our game plan."
Not only was it veterans who stepped up to fill the holes, but rookies also contributed to the success, with the likes of Mina, Drew Moor, Abe Thompson and Aaron Pitchkolan.
Moor came from Indiana University where his leadership earned him tri-captain for the team. Prior to Indiana he attended college at Furman where he was freshman of the year and an all-Southern Conference second team member.
"The one thing about Drew, he saw the first Dallas Burn game as a baby. With him [Drew Moor] he is a true gentleman on and off the field. That is why he has other players respect because he gives them respect," said Valakari.
"I think everyone can see he's [Mina] got some talent. He is definitely the difference; you don't know which way he is going to go with the ball, he is deceptive," added the Finnish international. "He is not quite match fit but the only way to get match fit is to play games."
"We are pleased with the makeup of the team and the play and making decisions [to substitute players] is very hard," said head coach Colin Clarke. "We have been hit by injuries and (national team) call-ups, so we have to be deep."
Ron Goode is a contirbutor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.