Kenny Cooper

Strike pair proving profitable for FCD

FC Dallas has scored a league-leading 21 goals this season, with a remarkable 10 players having already chipped in to the scoring column. But leading the scoring for the Hoops has been the forward combination of Kenny Cooper and Carlos Ruiz, who have accounted for 11 goals and four assists.

The dynamic duo is as potent as any scoring tandem in the entire league and neither player shows any signs of slowing down anytime soon. Their strong play this season has brought a smile to head coach Colin Clarke's face.

"I'm happy for both of them," he said. "Kenny (Cooper) started the season well. Carlos (Ruiz) was slow to hit his stride (scoring goals) but was doing some other good stuff. Now he's scoring goals again."

This year is Cooper's first in MLS after spending the last three seasons with Manchester United, whom he signed with out of high school in 2003. He scored in each of his first two games with the Hoops, including netting the game-winner in Week 1 against Chicago. His last two goals have come in the last two games.

Even though he's technically not considered a rookie because of his experience playing abroad, if MLS did hand out a newcomer of the year trophy, judging from his play so far this season, Cooper would have to be considered the favorite to win it. It's hard to argue that any team has had an offseason addition make a bigger impact than the 6-foot-3 Dallas native has with FCD.

When he came to Dallas over the winter, Cooper knew much was expected of him, but that was not a concern.

"Because we (Carlos Ruiz and myself) play up top, there is that expectation for us to score goals," he said. "Fortunately, we've been able to do that so far this year. We have a great team here and we're getting great service. It's really a credit to everybody."

He is also quick to heap praise on his fellow striker Ruiz.

"You only have to look at his stats," Cooper said. "He has six goals and [four] assists. It's all about making a contribution to the team."

While Cooper's big splash for the Hoops in 2006 has been somewhat surprising, Ruiz's performance has not. Much was expected of "El Pescadito" when FCD acquired him in March 2005 from Los Angeles and he has delivered and then some.

The four-time MLS All-Star is second in MLS in scoring, one goal behind Houston Dynamo's Brian Ching, and several of his tallies this year have been memorable, such as Ruiz's second goal against New England, a blistering ball from nearly midfield that beat Revs goaltender Matt Reis, named the Sierra Mist Goal of the Week.

Scoring for the talented Guatemalan is not a big deal.

"It's our job, you know (as forwards)," he said. "We can play and we have fun out there. When I see Kenny (Cooper) or someone else score, I'm happy for them. We play to win the championship and for the team."

While many teams have one primary offensive weapon, the Hoops have two, something Clarke loves.

"It's great for us," he said. "You can't rely on one person throughout a season to score goals. We've got those two and have had a few others chip in as well."

Steve Hunt is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.