Eric Avila scored arguably the most controversial goal of the young season last Saturday night for FC Dallas, salvaging a tie for the hosts against Columbus at Pizza Hut Park despite a potential missed handball whistle from head referee Jasen Anno.
The stoppage-time goal – which allowed FC Dallas to escape with a 2-2 draw – drew an immediate reaction from a group of livid Crew players, and Columbus defender Danny O’Rourke was eventually given for a straight red card for abusive language during the fray.
The sequence started when FCD’s David Ferreira was denied near post by Columbus goalkeeper Will Hesmer. The ball then popped out to near the top of the Crew’s area, where Avila and Guillermo Barros Schelotto were standing.
Avila described the rest of the scenario on Tuesday.
“I definitely saw it again [on video],” Avila said. “It was a tangle between me and Schelotto. It was kind of weird how it bounced back to me. I took a good touch and set myself up for a nice hit. I tried to tackle him [Schelotto] and he tried to flick it over me. We were so close to each other that he basically shot it to my upper arm. It bounced back and landed in front of me. He was talking about the hand ball, but my hand didn’t move or anything.”
“We saw a handball before he took the shot,” Crew coach Robert Warzycha said Saturday night. “He used it to control the ball. The referee didn’t call it or didn’t see it.”
Controversy or not, the FCD midfielder has carved out a nice niche for himself as an energy guy off the bench for his club, someone who can bring fresh legs to the pitch, which can give him an advantage over opposing players who are starting to tire.
“It’s always nice [the coaches] have the confidence to put me in and I can help the team as much as possible but I don’t want that role forever,” Avila said. “I don’t want to be the guy that comes in and provides energy. For now, it’s nice, but I want to play and continue to do well. If that’s what it takes right now to help the team, I’m staying positive. I’m going to continue to help the team as much as I can with whatever minutes I get.”