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Talking tactics: New York Red Bulls at FC Dallas, MLS Cup Playoffs

10/27/2011

In what has been an all-too-familiar sight at Pizza Hut Park, Schellas Hyndman put his charges in a position to bag a win but his players let him down with shoddy finishing and a few errors at the back.

Last night Hyndman rolled out a 4-2-3-1 to combat New York's 4-4-1-1. New York was clearly concerned about the speed on Dallas’ flanks: Hans Backe elected to play four central midfielders (from left to right Joel Lindpere, Teemu Tainio, Rafa Marquez, and Dax McCarty). Going forward, the tactic worked well for the visitors. The outside midfielders pinched-in (particularly McCarty) and helped link Thierry Henry with Dane Richards, who caused havoc with his darting runs behind center backs Ugo Ihemelu and George John.

Defensively, though, McCarty and Lindpere struggled to defend against the pace of Marvin Chavez and Brek Shea. The Dallas wingers, and fullbacks Zach Loyd and Jair Benitiez, needed only a split-second to find space before sending in their service. Early on, New York was very vulnerable along the flanks.

Hyndman took advantage of the situation by instructing his outside players to send in early crosses. Dallas' gaffer must have seen a vulnerability on film, as New York's backline struggled with the constant early service. This strategy led to numerous scoring opportunities for the Red Stripes.

But, in what has been a theme, Dallas' attackers didn't finish their chances. A 14th minute miss by Chavez and a 40th minute shank by Jackson were the most glaring failures. Jackson's miss was galling; his unmarked header from seven yards wasn't even close to being on target.

The sheer volume of opportunities - Dallas had 14 total shots and 7 shots on goal to New York's 6 and 6 - spoke wonders of Hyndman's tactical acumen, especially since Dallas had a slightly lower percentage of possession (51% to 49%). However, one personnel choice should be called into question. Hyndman's inclusion of Jackson over the more traditional Number 9 Maicon Santos didn't make sense in light of the amount of crosses sent into the box.

Jackson normally interchanges very well with Shea and Chavez, but against New York he stayed in the middle in anticipation of the waves of crosses. The Brazilian demonstrated his lack of a striker's instinct on more than one occasion, notably the 40th minute miss. Santos, a second half sub, had just one opportunity to head the ball toward goal and his effort from outside the box forced Frank Rost to make a save.

Granted, Santos was otherwise anonymous. But that was merely symptomatic of Dallas' problems in the latter half of the season. The front three, particularly the striker, failed to take advantage of excellent build-up and then a series of blunders at the back (John, Loyd, and Ihemelu all made mistakes on New York's opening goal) doomed the squad to a loss. Hyndman may look back on this match as the epitome of his squad's 2011 campaign, promise unfulfilled.

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