It's not a 4-4-2, folks. But it is something different. For the first time this campaign, Schellas Hyndman instructed his players to use a new formation. FC Dallas, though, actually began the match in its usual 4-1-3-1-1. A few personnel changes hinted that perhaps the formation wouldn't stay that way.
Eric Avila and Milton Rodriguez were dropped for Eric Alexander and Jackson, which allowed Brek Shea to move to the left wing. Alexander began the match in David Ferreira's attacking midfield spot, but within 15 minutes, he had shifted to the right flank and Marvin Chavez had come inside, creating a 4-4-1-1.
The formation still would have been a 4-1-3-1-1 had Andrew Jacobson not changed his style of play. The former Philadelphia Union man stuck much closer to Daniel Hernandez than is the norm, giving further protection to the Dallas backline. Despite Jacobson's slightly more defensive positioning, Dallas still gave up a number of shots from the middle of the pitch. Fortunately, Jacobson and Hernandez read each other better as the match went on and eventually began to limit Toronto's chances from central areas.
Other than Jacobson's positioning, the other big change was the presence of Chavez in the middle. The Honduran spent most of the match 10 to 15 yards deeper than Fabian Castillo. However, Chavez, as a converted winger, was clearly more comfortable receiving the ball slightly outside the middle of the pitch.
In fact, the use of a winger in central areas has been one of the key features of the 2010-2011 European campaign. Aston Villa's Ashley Young was probably the most famous example, though teams from Italy, Germany, and France all experimented with wingers in central areas.
Like Young, Chavez found plenty of joy as he drifted wide. And for much of the match, he, along with Brek Shea, provided most of the Dallas threat. The problem was that Castillo seemed to drift wide just as often as Chavez, leaving no one stationed in the middle of the final third.
In isolation, the absence of a striker in central areas isn't a problem. Dallas, though, seemed determined to whip balls into the box. But without a striker present to receive the crosses, right midfielder Eric Alexander was often the only player anywhere near the penalty area.
Fortunately, Toronto kept muffing Brek Shea's well-placed deliveries. And with Chavez and Hernandez providing a number of picture perfect set piece deliveries, it was only a matter of time before Dallas earned a decent look at the net. A 45th-minute penalty may have been a bit soft, but it was a just reward for Toronto's lackadaisical clearances.
Hyndman, though, can't be pleased that his squad generated a mere handful shots from the run of play. The squad's defensive solidarity was quite impressive, but if Hyndman wants to continue to use the 4-4-1-1 successfully, he needs to get Chavez and Castillo to start making complementary, rather than identical, runs.
Blake Owen is the editor and publisher of futbolforgringos.com.