FRISCO – Nearly 80 minutes into the match, FC Dallas were slowly watching their Supporter’s Shield and treble hopes slip away.
That changed in a matter of minutes thanks to two of their No. 9’s – a position many have considered a weakness for the league’s top team – with both Maxi Urruti and newly acquired Carlos Ruiz scoring goals in a 10 minute span to down Seattle 2-1 at Toyota Stadium.
For Ruiz, it was his first MLS goal in five years, and arguably the most important of the season for FC Dallas, who now control their own destiny in the Shield race.
“Carlos is a natural goalscorer,” head coach Oscar Pareja said. “He scores goals. He’s been working hard in that part.”
With Ruiz’s age, many pundits questioned the club’s decision to add a 37-year-old forward to a team full of young up-and-comers and Homegrowns who have been playing out the FCD commitment to youth development.
But Pareja knew they weren’t bringing "El Pescadito" in to play major minutes, hence his decision not to exhaustively train him in the most physically demanding portions of training.
“We know Carlos came to help us in moments like this, so we put him in front of the goal regularly in training, saving his energy for those key moments,” Pareja said. “Tonight was a good example.”
Added Ruiz: “This is a miracle from God. I’m a believer. After 37 years and still playing here, it’s unbelievable and a great sensation helping my teammates. I’m playing for the best team in Major League Soccer. I was waiting for my opportunity.”
Ruiz reiterated how different it’s been for him coming back to MLS after playing a lot of soccer in Guatemala, with the leagues having different styles of play.
He also understands the role Pareja has laid out for him, even if it doesn’t always mean the minutes he was accustomed to during his first stint in the league.
“I’m here to help,” Ruiz said. “Sometimes I’m not going to play, maybe sometimes I’m going to play a little bit. The whole reason to be here is to try to help from the outside when I have the opportunities to play.”
As for the minutes Ruiz didn’t play, Pareja noted how the first half was “rocky to both teams,” citing the windy conditions when opining how FC Dallas couldn’t get into a rhythm early.
But by the end of the night, FC Dallas returned to where they’ve been much of the season – leading the Shield Race, and in control of their own destiny in stepping toward that elusive treble.
“They were rewarded at the end with a goal from someone who has been brought to this team to score that goal, and hopefully many more,” Pareja said. “We’re happy to say we got the result and are leading the league.”