FC Dallas celebrates one of their goals against Oklahoma City Energy FC in the Fourth Round of the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: FC Dallas
FC Dallas (MLS) scored twice in each half and got big performances from both a club veteran and teenager making his debut to help the Hoops advance past OKC Energy (USL Championship). Winger Michael Barrios assisted on Dallas’ first goal and scored the second himself, while 16 year old Ricardo Pepi made his first team debut, recording an assist and going the full 90 as the center forward.
With seven goals in his first six matches to lead all USL League One goalscorers, Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez wasn’t shocked to see the youngster have an impact in his first appearance since being called up on loan.
“Pepi was Pepi. That’s why I gave him the opportunity.”, Gonzalez said after the game.
Pepi himself never imagined making his debut so soon, but he took it all in stride.
“I’m very thankful to FC Dallas for giving me this opportunity, it’s a good one. I was working hard for it, but I never expected it to come this fast. It was overall pretty positive; we can work a little better. It was pretty good.”
Dallas came out strong from the opening whistle, earning a corner kick just three minutes into the game. They got their second in the 11th minute and Hedges opened the scoring with a clinical header off the service from Barrios. It was Hedges’ fourth career Open Cup goal and his first since 2016 when he scored not one but two in that edition of the tournament. He is now tied with Barrios for the most Open Cup goals in FC Dallas history. Barrios’ assist was his sixth of the 2019 season, which currently leads all players.
Dallas retained a comfortable advantage in possession and nearly added to their lead in the 26th with a free kick from just outside the box but the header from Dominique Badji sailed just high and wide. OKC did earn a pair of free kicks in dangerous spots after that, but couldn’t capitalize and were made to pay.
Barrios doubled Dallas’ lead in the 43rd minute after getting a pass from Pepi at the time of the box and firing home at the far post. Halftime came with Dallas in complete control, having outshot the Energy by an eight to one margin. Gonzalez was asked how he kept his team focused in the second half, despite being so dominant.
“The motto is: score the next goal. Win the next ball…I thought tonight was a very professional performance,” he added.
At 16 years 5 months and 3 days, Pepi became the second youngest player in the Modern Era (1995-Present) to appear in a US Open Cup match. Only former DC United child star Freddy Adu (16 years 2 months and 1 day) was younger when he made his debut. Pepi is also just the second youngest player to record an assist in an Open Cup game, bested by Adu again for the record.
16-year-old Ricardo Pepi made his debut with FC Dallas in the club’s Fourth Round match against OKC Energy FC in the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: FC Dallas
The second half started with a bang as OKC Energy earned a free kick in the 46th minute and prior to the kick being taken, Deshorne Brown was handed a yellow card in the 47th for jostling a little too hard in the box. A minute later, Hedges found himself shaken up but he would return shortly after. Then in the 52nd minute, Dallas earned yet another corner kick and this time it was Badji, completely unmarked, who connected on the service from Jesus Ferreira to make it 3-0 Hoops. Badji stressed just how hard the team prepares for set pieces and was grateful for his teammate’s delivery.
“It’s a set play, so I knew he was going to hit it to me. It was a great ball.” he noted after the game.
OKC would go on to empty their bench with three substitutions in nine minutes, but none of Christian Eissele, Kal Okot, or Joshua Garcia could help the Energy break through with a goal. Dallas would finish as 4-0 winners, eliminating Oklahoma City for the third straight time in Open Cup play. The Hoops beat the Energy 4-1 in 2015, and ousted them in penalty kicks in 2016 to begin Dallas’ run to their second US Open Cup title.
Dallas’ Bryan Reynolds, making his first career start with the team, earned a penalty in the 89th minute and second half sub Reto Zeigler converted from the spot to send the home crowd happy with a thoroughly convincing 4-0 win to advance to the fifth round. Badji and Zeigler’s goals were their first in the Open Cup with FC Dallas.
Gonzalez, who played at Southern Methodist University as a college player, was happy to be back on campus.
“This is my alma mater and I have a lot of big memories here. I remember competing on this field as a player and now to do it as a coach is an honor so it was a great feeling.”
Dallas advance to the Round of 16 where they will return to SMU to host USL Championship expansion team New Mexico United on June 19. The winner of that game will will travel to play either Minnesota United or the defending Open Cup champion Houston Dynamo in the Quarterfinals.