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Talking Tactics: Vancouver Whitecaps at FC Dallas

FC Dallas fans are familiar with this 4-2-3-1, where the presence of the trequartista helps wingers penetrate the backline. ESPNDallas .com

Vancouver Whitecaps fans probably don't have much sympathy for the recent struggles of FC Dallas. The expansion squad is just one point away from scraping the bottom of the table, which made them the perfect opponent for Dallas to build on a recent 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire.

Even though the Red Stripes locked up their playoff spot in Chicago, Schellas Hyndman deployed his usual attacking lineup, presumably in an effort to leapfrog Real Salt Lake for third place in the Western Conference. Hyndman used the 4-2-3-1 that has become Dallas' go-to formation for the latter half of the season, though Jackson - as in the Chicago match - platooned for Maicon Santos up top.

Despite the absence of David Ferreira, Hyndman's 1-striker formation has continued to create scoring opportunities. The wing play of Brek Shea and Marvin Chavez - as well as Fabian Castillo and Jackson - often troubles opposing fullbacks to no end. Saturday's starters, Shea and Chavez, were obviously instrumental to the victory, as Chavez scored the opener, with Shea assisting, and Shea picked up the clincher. Both wingers demonstrated excellent skill on their strikes: Chavez dummied Jay DeMerit, a 2010 World Cup participant, and Shea calmly blasted home a half-volley.

Neither winger, however, would be able to cause such havoc without the calculated passes of the trequartista, the attacking midfielder who operates behind the striker. Earlier in the season, a number of players had the opportunity to impress in this position, but Ricardo Villar put a stranglehold on the starting spot at the beginning of August. His intelligent vision and comfort on the ball suck in defenses and let the wingers sneak behind the backline.

Against Vancouver he again showed his quality. Villar produced half of FC Dallas' key passes, services that led to a goal scoring opportunity. And though the Brazilian only completed 67% of his passes, even his unsuccessful attempts showed a willingness to try to break down the defense: all but one of his misses were targeted at a teammate in a more advanced position.

Ferreira's injury tasked Hyndman with the impossible duty of replacing the MVP, but Villar's stellar second half of the season has eased that burden and allowed Dallas' wingers to flourish. He'll need to continue pulling the strings if FCD wants to replicate last season's run to the MLS Cup final.