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Thursday, April 28, 2011
Talking Tactics: FC Dallas at Vancouver Whitecaps

By Blake Owen

Bittersweet is the operative term for last Saturday's 2-1 victory. Even though David Ferreira won't be taking the pitch for the foreseeable future, his teammates did enough to somewhat ease fans' concerns.

1st Half

In another battle of 4-1-3-1-1 against 4-4-2, Dallas started off second-best. Vancouver coped with their lack of numbers in midfield by playing plenty of cross-field passes. This tactic, which was recently used by Manchester United against Chelsea in the Champions League, not only allowed them to avoid the congestion in the middle, it also served to pin back the Hoops' fullbacks.

When strikers Eric Hassli and Camilo Sanvezzo inched wide to participate in one-two's with outside midfielders Wes Knight and Davide Chiumiento, Vancouver gave the Dallas backline all kinds of problems. At times, Chiumiento stayed so high that it appeared the Whitecaps were using a lopsided 4-3-3.

The dangerous Chiumiento earned a free kick near the touchline in the 25th, and though Kevin Hartman managed to parry the set piece's first shot, he was left helpless by a well-placed second.

Two minutes later, Brek Shea, who started at left midfield, showed how dangerous he can be in forward positions. Ferreira targeted the big winger with his free kick service, and Shea worried keeper Jay Nolly enough that he muffed the cross. Andrew Jacobson's follow-up shot was handled in the box, though Ferreira missed the ensuing penalty.

But it wouldn't be long before Ferreira began to have a more positive influence. After Dallas grew accustomed to defending Vancouver's cross-field passes, Ferreira started to find pockets of space in which to operate. Stationing himself behind the center midfielders but in front of the center backs, the Colombian created a series of half-chances for his teammates. Vancouver, though, didn't make any mistakes and left the pitch still holding their one-goal lead.

2nd Half

At the interval, Hyndman replaced Castillo with Milton Rodriguez. Castillo didn't seem as comfortable up top as he had in previous matches along the wing, and Rodriguez's intricate passing game nicely complemented Ferreira's increasing influence. Of course, Ferreira's last positive contribution for some time occurred in the 50th when he won a corner, and broke his ankle doing so.
His teammates did their part to ease his pain by immediately equalizing. Marvin Chavez's service to Jackson at the near post was flicked to George John, who powered past Nolly.

Without Ferreira, Hyndman still used his 4-1-3-1-1 (Eric Avila replaced the injured MVP). Dallas, though, increasingly turned to the wings for their offense. Jackson was particularly bright going forward, even if his defending was, at times, suspect.

But it was a Jair Benitez cross that set up the winner. In the 83rd, Benitez targeted Rodriguez with his service. The striker failed to control the cross, but the ball fortuitously fell to Avila on the edge of the box. The substitute did his best Ferreira impression with a perfectly weighted shot into the near netting.

Despite the victory, Hyndman obviously has tactical decisions to make before Los Angeles visits Pizza Hut Park this Sunday. But given his squad's composed performance following Ferreira's exit, he just might stick with his 4-1-3-1-1.

Blake Owen is the editor and publisher of