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Monday, May 2, 2011
Talking tactics: LA Galaxy at FC Dallas

By Blake Owen

In FC Dallas' first game without David Ferreira, Schellas Hyndman didn't make any changes to his formation.  Eric Avila stepped into Ferreira's spot but otherwise the Dallas lineup remained the same.

1st Half

While the squad's overall shape didn't change, Fabian Castillo revealed another facet to his play.  The young striker often moved toward the flank as wingers Brek Shea and Marvin Chavez moved toward the middle.  The constant movement forced LA defenders to regularly switch markers.

Castillo's presence on the wing helped create two scoring opportunities in the 26th and 29th minutes.  During both sequences, LA was flummoxed by the swarming attackers.  The first sequence involved Castillo sending in a teasing cross to an unmarked Avila, who was inches away from connecting.  In the 29th, Castillo connected with Jair Benitez on the wing.  A trio of Dallas players - Shea, Jacobson, and Chavez - all squeezed between defenders for a chance at a shot.  The ball went agonizingly wide of all three.

On the other end of the pitch, Hyndman may have revealed a lone concession to Ferreira's absence.  The fullbacks were much more circumspect with their runs forward.  The plan worked wonders, as the Galaxy struggled to generate any meaningful offense with their 4-4-2.

2nd Half

A scant two minutes after the half began, Castillo continued his productive first half by netting his first MLS goal.  In this instance, he was the recipient of service from the wing.  Jackson's throw-in was headed toward Castillo by Jacobson, and the Colombian skillfully volleyed past Donovan Ricketts.

Unfortunately for FC Dallas, Galaxy manager Bruce Arena made an effective change in the second period.  Outside midfielders Landon Donovan and Mike Magee ventured inward with regularity when LA had possession.  This strategy essentially turned their formation into a 4-2-2-2 in attack.  Donovan and Magee's positioning created space for their fullbacks and allowed David Beckham to inch wide and make use of his pinpoint crosses.

Though it was their other central midfielder, Juninho, who would provide the service that led to the equalizer.  His cross found a sliding Landon Donovan at the near post.

After Donovan's goal, the match tilted in LA's favor.  With Donovan almost permanently stationed in front of Beckham and Juninho, LA did a much better job holding possession.  Dallas did have plenty of room to use on the counter - and Shea and Chavez almost combined for a goal in the 68th - but the wet and windy conditions made it difficult to play cross-field passes, making Donovan's positioning less of an issue defensively.

Hyndman then brought on Ricardo Villar for Avila in an attempt to regain control of possession.  Avila had combined well with Castillo in the early going.  But after Arena made his adjustments Avila's influence waned. Villar didn't fare any better, creating little offense before the 83rd minute rain delay.

After play resumed, Los Angeles continued to control the match. It was Dallas, however, that found a winner.  A swift Dallas counter ended successfully when Brek Shea's cross floated into the side netting.  Hyndman quickly took off Castillo in favor of Eric Alexander to see out the match, a prescient move since Dallas was forced into a few goal line clearances by a desperate Los Angeles.

A victory over the Supporters Shield holders is an outstanding result for the first game without Ferreira, but Hyndman will need to find more production from Avila and Villar if he wants to continue to replicate last season's fine form.

Blake Owen is the editor and publisher of futbolforgringos.com.