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Apr 13, 2007

FC Dallas strike tandem continues to bond

Only two players have scored for FC Dallas in their two matches thus far, but if the pace of the pair keeps up, MLS records will fall.

"We haven't had the best results out here [at the Home Depot Center]," said FC Dallas forward Kenny Cooper, who, after FC Dallas' 2-1 win versus the Galaxy, already has two strikes in two games this season. "It was important for us to get a win."

Breaking the record of never winning in the Home Depot Center was especially sweet for FC Dallas captain Carlos Ruiz, who was traded by the Galaxy in 2005 as part of a deal to acquire current Galaxy captain Landon Donovan.

"It's different, playing the Galaxy," said Ruiz. "It means a lot more to me."

Something else that is special to Ruiz is his new role of captain of FC Dallas.

"It's more responsibility," Ruiz said. "It applies to everything I do. You have to set a good example for the others."

With two goals and an assist already in his account, Ruiz is setting the bar high.

Many expected that after a successful 2006 Ruiz's strike partnership with Cooper would get stuck in the inevitable sophomore slump. That sometimes manifests itself when someone in a striker tandem gets frustrated at not scoring goals and begins to resent the success of the other player up front. (Between them, Ruiz and Cooper scored 24 goals in the 2006 regular season, the highest strike rate of any pairing in MLS save that of DC United's Christian Gomez and Jaime Moreno, who had 25 goals.)

Ruiz and Cooper seem determined to avoid that fate by taking turns scoring and by looking the share the load even more.

"We have a lot of weapons," Cooper said of the team's offensive potential. "Carlos and I have been fortunate in these last two games to be on the scoresheet. We'll see how the rest of the season goes."

Ruiz, meanwhile, was effusive in his praise for Cooper.

"Kenny is a great player," Ruiz said. "He's got so much potential."

If anything, Ruiz expected that both players would improve upon their goal outputs of least season.

"Every day we understand each other better and better. That's important."

The attitude of Cooper especially impressed Ruiz.

"When you play soccer you want to be happy and he is. There's always pressure to win, but you can't forget the effort."

The effort wasn't lacking the past two years when Ruiz fought to lead his squad through playoff advancement, but the results both times were. Dallas was eliminated both years on penalty kicks. As painful as those setbacks were, Ruiz believed the squad had learned tough lessons that had improved them all.

"Now we're more complete players," Ruiz said. "We understand now that in the playoffs -- you need to bring more to the table and we didn't in the previous playoffs. Now it's very clear in our minds that we can't just have a good first few games the regular season. We have to be more professional and reach the playoffs again."

Cooper as well was focused on bringing home a title of some kind to Dallas this season.

"That is certainly the goal," Cooper said. "Playing in different competitions, there's no doubt that what's we're aiming for. We're an ambitious team. It's a good thing. The past two years, there's been a great opportunity to get to the final in our hometown. It didn't happen. Maybe that's added motivation for us this year, to get to the final."

Andrea Canales covers MLS and women's college soccer for ESPNsoccernet. She also writes for topdrawersoccer.com, lasoccernews.com, soccer365.com and contributes to a blog, Sideline Views. She can be contacted at soccercanales@yahoo.com.