For the second straight year, FC Dallas midfielder Eric Avila delivered a big goal against Columbus. Last June, with FCD trailing 1-0 after allowing an own goal in the first half, Avila delivered a screamer to tie things up in the second half.
On Saturday night against the Black and Gold at Pizza Hut Park, he again struck, this time with a stoppage-time strike that allowed FCD to salvage a point and play the Crew to a 2-2 draw.
The goal wasn’t without some controversy. 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 describes the rest of the scenario.
“I definitely saw it again (on video),” he said after practice on Tuesday. “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.”
Following the win, Avila made a reference to the Crew’s Andy Iro, a college teammate of his at UCSB.
“He was mad (about the tie). He told me it was a great goal,” the FCD midfielder said. “I saw him later that night. Every time we go against each other, we try to one up each other. It’s not a bet per se but every time I get the ball, I try to go near him. The smack talk comes after. I have the rights until we play them again.”
Iro isn’t the only one of his fellow ex-Gauchos that he has had friendly wagers with. He and DC forward Chris Pontius also had a dinner on the line with the one who scored fewer goals in 2009 picking up the tab.
“Yeah, he scored all the goals. It’s still going,” Avila said of the bet. “We met up in Santa Barbara and settled the bet there, in our homeland. I haven’t talked to him lately about our next bet, but we’ll try to find something.”
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 they (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.”
One adjustment this season is that former mentor and FCD captain Pablo Ricchetti, whom Avila learned much from, is no longer with the club.
“Pablo was a really good guy to me. We still talk,” the FCD midfielder said. “He sends me good luck messages before games. Some of the older guys (help me out) like Daniel Hernandez, our captain. He’s been helping me out. Heath Pearce and Dax McCarty are also good friends of mine. I think I’ve grown and been able to handle myself in situations. They give me guidance and tell me certain things that would help out. I’m taking it in a positive way and am going with it. Dario (Sala) and Jeff (Cunningham) also help me out.”
This weekend, he and his teammates travel to face the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Park, a facility he is looking forward to seeing.
“I’m dying to see it. I have a friend up there, Connor Chinn,” Avila said. “He and Jeremy Hall are friends of mine. I know him from Residency and he’s a really good friend of mine. Connor Chin is from my neighborhood and played on my club team. I’m really excited. I think it’s going to be great. I’m excited.”