Despite allowing an early goal and seeing another starting midfielder go down to injury, FC Dallas stormed back with two goals in the second half to knock off the Colorado Rapids 2-1 on Wednesday night at the Cotton Bowl.
Jean Philippe Peguero gave the visitors a 12th-minute lead, but FC Dallas scored two goals after the hour, Ronnie O'Brien pulling the home side level before Carlos Ruiz scored the game-winner just 16 minutes later and put FCD back atop the Western Conference for the time being.
It took just nine minutes for the injury bug to strike again, as starting midfielder Carey Talley left the game with a rib injury. Aaron Pitchkolan entered the match to replace the veteran.
Rapids goalkeeper Joe Cannon preserved the early advantage in the 16th minute when he stopped a left-footed blast by Ruiz, who had come up the right flank before shooting at the near post.
The Mile High club then nearly doubled the score just before the half when Henderson again served up an inviting cross for Alain Nkong, who headed it down only to see it come off the left post before Garlick gobbled up the rebound to kill the threat.
Oscar Pareja -- who filled the central midfield role vacated with the seaosn-ending injury to Richard Mulrooney last weekend -- hit a drive toward the right post that was snared by Cannon in injury time of the first half.
The Rapids had most of the ball possession in the half and their defense held steady against an FC Dallas side that had a sense of urgency to score growing steadily as the half wore on.
That sense of urgency took hold on the hour when FC Dallas coach Colin Clarke took off Pareja for Ramon Nunez -- and he immediately made his presence felt. Nunez sent in a cross to O'Brien that he drilled home with his right foot to the lower right corner, beating Garlick and pulling the Hoops level.
FC Dallas began to have all the play. A Nunez corner from the right side in the 70th minute nearly found Chris Gbandi for a spectacular shot, but it went wide left of the goal. Then O'Brien ran up the middle of the field uncontested and blasted a shot that handcuffed Cannon, though he was able to get enough to put it out for a corner.
Persistence finally paid off for the home team in the 77th minute. Eddie Johnson flicked a ball on to unmarked defender Clarence Goodson in the middle of the goalmouth, and he passed to Guatemalan international Ruiz who blasted the ball past Cannon and gave FCD their first lead of the night.
There was one final chance for the Rapids, super-sub Jeff Cunningham getting a shot on goal. But Garlick made his first save since early in the first half to preserve the lead and send the Hoops back on the road with three valuable points.
FC Dallas head to the West Coast this weekend where they will face Chivas USA on Sunday evening (6:30 p.m. PT), while the Rapids continue their two-game road trip by heading north to Chicago, where they will face the Fire on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. CT).
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Ronnie O'Brien (FC Dallas)
Ron Goode is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
Colorado Rapids (2-4-1) vs. FC Dallas (3-1-3)
May 18, 2005 -- Cotton Bowl
COL -- Jean Philippe Peguero 2 (Chris Henderson 5) 12
DAL -- Ronnie O'Brien 3 (Ramon Nunez 1) 61
DAL -- Carlos Ruiz 4 (Clarence Goodson 1, Eddie Johnson 1) 77
Colorado Rapids -- Joe Cannon, Ricky Lewis (Matt Crawford 59), Eric Denton, Guy Melamed, Ritchie Kotschau, Chris Henderson, Nat Borchers, Pablo Mastroeni (Kyle Beckerman 15), Alain Nkong (Jeff Cunningham 70), Luchi Gonzalez, Jean Philippe Peguero.
Substitutes Not Used: Leo Cullen, Byron Foss.
TOTAL SHOTS: 9 (Guy Melamed 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (3 tied with 1); FOULS: 19 (3 tied with 3); OFFSIDES: 4 (Jeff Cunningham 3); CORNER KICKS: 7 (Chris Henderson 4); SAVES: 5 (Joe Cannon 5)
FC Dallas -- Scott Garlick, Bobby Rhine, Clarence Goodson, Greg Vanney, Chris Gbandi, Ronnie O'Brien, Simo Valakari, Carey Talley (Aaron Pitchkolan 10), Eddie Johnson, Oscar Pareja (Ramon Nunez 60), Carlos Ruiz (Drew Moor 87).
Substitutes Not Used: Arturo Alvarez, Jeff Cassar, Steve Jolley, Roberto Mina, Philip Salyer, Abe Thompson.
TOTAL SHOTS: 13 (Carlos Ruiz 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 7 (Carlos Ruiz 3); FOULS: 15 (Simo Valakari 3); OFFSIDES: 5 (Carlos Ruiz 4); CORNER KICKS: 5 (Greg Vanney 3); SAVES: 2 (Scott Garlick 2)
DAL -- Aaron Pitchkolan (caution; Dissent) 48+
COL -- Ritchie Kotschau (caution; Reckless Foul) 46
COL -- Eric Denton (caution; Delaying a Restart) 73
Referee: Mark Geiger
Referee's Assistants: -Chris Strickland; David Bragg
4th Official: Kevin Terry
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-82-degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.