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Friday, May 27, 2011
Talking tactics: FC Dallas at Seattle Sounders

By Blake Owen

If your wingers can't connect with your strikers, focus on connecting your wingers with your midfielders.  In Wednesday's match against Seattle, Schellas Hyndman continued to field his post-David Ferreira 4-4-2.

While the overall strategy stayed the same - stay compact defensively and punish the opposition on the break - Hyndman made greater use of Brek Shea's unique talents than at any previous point this season.

4-4-2 vs 4-4-2

Given that both squads were fielding a 4-4-2, the match boiled down to a series of individual matchups.  The central midfielders canceled each other out, the wingers attempted to pin back the fullbacks, and the center backs each picked up a striker.  Honestly, it wasn't a very interesting tactical battle.

At least until Brek Shea started moving where he wasn't supposed to (from a Seattle standpoint, that is).  Shea kept crashing toward Seattle's center backs.  His presence alternatively gave the Hoops a 3-2 advantage in that area or, when Fabian Castillo or Marvin Chavez dropped into midfield, forced the Sounders to rotate defensive responsibilities.  His excellent off the ball movement allowed him a free lane on the way to his 18th minute goal.

Ihemelu leads the charge

But Shea never could have gotten away with his central positioning had Dallas' defense not been so stout.  Dallas again played a counter-attacking style.  This time Hyndman's strategy resulted in a 65% to 35% possession disadvantage.

Stellar defending in the final third, and the always excellent Kevin Hartman, negated Seattle's possession advantage.  Ugo Ihemelu's performance was particularly noteworthy.  In the first half alone, Ihemelu single-handedly created 4 counters, including an interception that started the Shea goal-scoring sequence.

Perhaps Hyndman's sole mistake was shifting to a 4-5-1 a bit early.  In the 63rd, Ruben Luna came on for Castillo, with Chavez shifting to the right wing and Eric Alexander moving inside.  In this formation Dallas invited even more pressure and Hartman was called on to make 3 saves over the final 24 minutes.  As long as Hartman continues his outstanding play, Dallas can keep playing on the counter.  But when Hyndman shifts to a 4-5-1, he needs to find a way to offer Luna support, and, thus, give his defenders a brief rest.

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