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Monday, August 15, 2011
Talking tactics: FC Dallas at Philadelphia Union

By Blake Owen

When Dallas and Philadelphia met in May, Fabian Castillo torched the Union to the tune of a goal and an assist.  With Castillo still out on international duty, it was another newcomer's turn to shine against Philly.  Striker Maicon Santos bagged the opening goal, and though he didn't officially earn an assist on the second, it was his pass to Marvin Chavez that created the opportunity for Brek Shea to knock in a rebound.

Philly give Dallas space in the midfield

Santos was instrumental to Dallas' success Saturday evening.  His four key passes - defined as passes that lead to a shooting opportunity - topped the team.  Santos dropped into the midfield with regularity, attempting a number of passes near the midfield line.

His forays toward his own half were a result of the tactics employed by Peter Novak in Freddy Adu's MLS return.  In order to accommodate Adu, Novak unveiled a flexible 4-3-3.  Adu joined Sebastian Le Toux and Jack McInerny up top.  The three forwards interchanged constantly, and their movement gave the Dallas backline some problems, particularly when midfielder Justin Mapp joined them (one of Mapp's ventures forward led to the first penalty).

But Novak's use of the attacking trio did not come without cost.  Dallas likes to break down the wing, so Philadelphia's forwards had to take turns retreating to reinforce the stretched midfield.  However, there were a few sequences where one of the forwards failed to provide defensive support.  The Union central midfielders were then unable to cover enough ground to prevent Dallas from stringing passes together.  And when Santos dropped into the midfield, Dallas easily bypassed Phladelphia's center mids.

Though Dallas' first goal was courtesy a mistake from center back Carlos Valdes, who failed to clear a pass right in front of Santos, the second was due to the stretched Philly midfield.   Shea won a challenge in his own half, and because all three Union forwards near Dallas' backline, Shea, Santos, and Chavez were able to quickly break into the  Union penalty area.

Dallas errors lead to Union goals

But it was three mistakes that came to characterize FCD's evening.  While Jackson and Ihemelu both committed fouls on their respective penalty sequences, neither defender should have been forced to attempt a challenge on the edge of the box.  In the first half, Jair Benitez neglected to track the run of Mapp, and Ihemelu had to chase down the Union midfielder.  Later on, Jackson created his own conundrum by trying to backheel a clearance, which forced him to run after Gabriel Farfan.  And, of course, Jackson was only lining up at fullback because George John earned his second yellow by unnecessarily blundering into the heels of Danny Mwanga.

These gaffes must be eliminated before Wednesday's journey to Pumas.  Few teams are able to overcome silly mistakes in the rigorous Champions League.

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