Dallas Soccer: Roy Miller
Manager Schellas Hyndman employed a comparable formation to the 4-2-3-1 he used last season, though naturally some of the personnel changed. Gone were Jackson and Marvin Chavez, replaced by Blas Perez and Fabian Castillo. Also, a recently-returned George John was benched in favor of newcomer Hernan Pertuz.
Perez, Castillo, and Pertuz all made vital contributions to the victory. Perez garnered assists on both goals (more on Perez in the diagram below); Castillo's speed was instrumental in earning the free kick that led to the first tally; and the young Pertuz made a veteran's canny tackle to prevent Thierry Henry from getting a shot in the 13th minute.
As noted, Hyndman's main strategy was to counter at pace, which is how the goal was partially created. Castillo powered into New York's half following a Red Bulls corner, and though he was dispossessed, Ricardo Villar was able to earn a free kick on the ensuing scrum for possession. New York made a mess of a pair of clearances following the free kick. Zach Loyd then latched onto the loose ball and beat keeper Andrew Meara.
But, like the playoff encounter, New York controlled much of the match. Despite New York's high percentage of possession (63% to 37%), the Red Bulls' earliest scoring opportunities were courtesy of misplaced Dallas passes. In the third minute, Jair Benitez even sent a free kick straight to an unmarked Juan Agudelo. Ihemelu, though, was able to clean up the mistake
The second half played out much life the first. Dallas picked up a goal off a counter and had to do some desperate defending to garner the full three points. Oddly, New York left back Roy Miller started the second Dallas scoring sequence with a pass remarkably similar to Benitez's third minute gaffe. Under no pressure whatsoever, the Red Bulls' fullback casually sent a pass to Perez. The striker made an intelligent pass to find Ricardo Villar in space, and the Brazilian chipped Meara to put Dallas up 2-0.
New York manager Hans Backe responded by bringing on former Dallas striker Kenny Cooper and switching from a 4-4-1-1 to a lopsided 4-4-2 (forward Juan Agudelo was stationed at right midfield but was essentially a third striker). An exhausted Dallas began to retreat deeper and deeper into their own half, a problem compounded by the removal of Villar.
As the attacking midfielder in the 4-2-3-1, Villar's intelligent passes had ensured Dallas retained possession long enough to relieve pressure on the back four. When holding midfielder Bobby Warshaw came on for the Brazilian in the 74th, Andrew Jacobson moved up to Villar's position but failed to replicate his intelligent outlet passes. As a result, over the final 16 minutes New York completed 84 more passes than Dallas.
Under that much pressure, it was likely that a single mistake would lead to a goal. When Benitez and Pertuz failed to mark Cooper, the striker was easily able to chip Kevin Hartman, but New York was otherwise unable to ripple Hartman's net.
While the end result couldn't be better, Hyndman needs to find a way to relieve pressure late in games without the use of Villar.
Blake Owen is the editor and publisher of futbolforgringos.com.
The club will honor the late Bobby Rhine in their first MLS home match since the popular former player passed away when it tries to extend the New York Red Bulls' winless streak to nine games.
A first-round pick by the Dallas Burn in 1999, Rhine spent more than a decade with the organization. As a player, he had the franchise's fourth-most assists with 34 and eighth-most goals with 23. Rhine later worked in the front office and was a broadcaster for the club before he died Sept. 5 at the age of 35.
"I had the pleasure of coaching him during his time as a player and Bobby always gave his all to FC Dallas," coach Schellas Hyndman told the team's official website. "He brought a daily smile and an unmatched passion and love for the club and his teammates."
FC Dallas (13-8-7) will have its players and staff wear black armbands bearing his initials and jersey number. A moment of silence will be held before the game and a video tribute to Rhine will be shown at halftime, with members of his family in attendance.
Dallas lost 2-0 at New England last Saturday in its first game since Rhine's death. It followed that with a 1-1 draw against Panamanian club Tauro on Wednesday in the CONCACAF Champions League.
"It was just a group of errors we need to work on and hopefully improve on," defender Zach Loyd said.
Dallas top scorer Marvin Chavez is out with an ankle sprain. Midfielder Brek Shea should return after he rested Wednesday.
Chavez scored twice in a 2-2 draw at New York on July 23.
"It's a lot of pace, a counter-attack side, a very aggressive defending side, pressing all over the pitch to give you less time on the ball," said New York coach Hans Backe about Dallas.
The Red Bulls (6-6-15) are one point behind D.C. for the fourth and final wild-card playoff spot. New York is 0-3-5 since a 5-0 win over Toronto FC on July 6.
New York will be without Roy Miller (adductor strain) while fellow defender Tim Ream is questionable with a lower leg contusion. Jan Gunnar Solli is suspended after being sent off in last Saturday's 1-1 draw with expansion Vancouver.
"We're trying not to look at who is going to be missing or not," forward Thierry Henry said. "We have to go in and try to win some games. We didn't win a lot of games this year, we did not lose a lot but we but we did not lose a lot so we have to try to grab points."
Despite their winless run, the Red Bulls are confident they can spark a turnaround.
"I have a good feeling for this Saturday game," Backe said. "I think definitely if we play smart we can pick up points."