FC Dallas dug deep to pull out a thrilling come-from-behind victory against D.C. United on Wednesday night, edging the defending MLS champion on penalty kicks after an stoppage-time equalizer from Carlos Ruiz saved not only their U.S. Open Cup campaign, but possibly their entire season.
After being frustrated by United's back line for more than 90 minutes, Ruiz embarked on a gritty solo run with seconds left as 10-man United clung to a 1-0 lead. He beat defenders Bobby Boswell and Facundo Erpen, then slipped home the vital goal that eventually led to the 4-1 penalty kick shootout win for FC Dallas.
Former University of Maryland star Abe Thompson made a triumphant return to his old stomping grounds, netting the Hoops' fourth and decisive shootout goal at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
"Over the course of the game, I wasn't that sure when [coach Colin Clarke] was going to put me in, but I definitely knew that I was going to get in there for the penalties," said Thompson. "So I was just staying ready, and when it was time for me to get on to take a penalty kick, I wanted to make sure I buried it."
The rookie striker came on for a tired Simo Valakari in the 120th minute, specifically selected for his skills on the spot -- and he did not disappoint.
"That was the only thing he put me on to do, so I wanted to make sure I did my job," said Thompson.
His spot kick capped a sensational comeback for the visitors, who gave up a goal by United's Christian Gomez just two minutes into the second half. But Dema Kovalenko's 72nd-minute ejection gave Dallas a man advantage that allowed them to wear down D.C. before Ruiz grabbed the equalizer at the death.
"You know, on the bench it was a little subdued," said Thompson of his side's mood as the minutes ticked away. "But we were holding out a bit of hope, and it paid off. We stayed positive, no one started getting negative. We got the ball forward, Carlos was able to turn on his man and finish a great goal."
Clarence Goodson, another Maryland product (and Virginia native) who enjoyed a strong homecoming, was steady throughout the match as Dallas weathered heavy pressure from D.C. in the early going. The central defender praised his side's determination, noting that the Hoops never considered quitting.
"Just keep pushing forward, keep on top of them and hopefully get an equalizer," said Goodson of his team's approach. "That's been our motto this season, and we kind of got away from it in this bad stretch that we've had lately. But if we just work hard, stick (together) as a team and push at the end, good things will happen."
The win continues the Open Cup run for FCD and goes a long way towards reversing their recent form, having won only one match in their previous seven in all competitions.
"Definitely," said Thompson. "Every game we talk about that, but we've been doing well in the Open Cup in particular lately, so we can use this as kind of a springboard and start a bit of a run. Hopefully it carries over into our game on Saturday and the games we've got upcoming."
Charles Boehm is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.