Know Your Enemy: FC Dallas – Part Two – Game Film Review and Points of Interest

Even Pa Modou Kah yelling cannot stop Mauro Diaz - Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

The second half of the latest installment of the Know Your Enemy series, previewing TFC's upcoming opponent, FC Dallas, reviewing the game film for strengths and weaknesses

Part One was posted yesterday, looking over their lineup and form

Perhaps the most interesting thing to watch for this match will be how Dallas responds to their first loss of the season, against Seattle. It will have come as a disappointment given their start.

Dallas has not yet had a weekend off throughout the first six rounds of the season and Pareja has not rotated his squad much. Early season fitness can be tricky and they really seemed to run out of gas in the second half against the Sounders, which could play a factor.

The Tactics

When assessing Dallas, it is hard to look past Mauro Diaz. The little Argentine maestro has been the heart-beat of their attack, amassing two goals and three assists, but creating so much more.

He is tricky, surprisingly strong on the ball, can ride a tackle, and thread a pass with the best of them.

Je-Vaughan Watson’s goal against Chivas is a great of example of how he can single-handedly carve through an opponent:


With Diaz in the middle and willing runners on either side in the form of Watson and Fabian Castillo, who has really come into his own this season, Dallas can be devastating on a fast break.

The Argentine loves to engage in some sharp combo play and can find space in the most crowded of circumstances (as his goal against Portland evidences), but his favourite is laying a ball inside the full-back for one of those speedsters to run on to.

Watson’s goal above is a good example and the two linked up again against Houston:


Toronto will have to be very wary of that risk, the full-backs, Justin Morrow and Mark Bloom will have to be very sharp to contain that threat.

That pace around the outside can cause all sorts of trouble, whether goals, free-kicks (which often lead to goals), or cards. Here Castillo’s blazing pace drew the red that turned the match in Houston:


If the red card can be avoided, there will inevitably be some dangerous free-kicks, at which Dallas also happens to excel.

Whether direct on goal - here’s Diaz sinking the eventual winner against Montreal in the season opener:


Or, flung into the area for a towering header - as when Matt Hedges connected with Michel’s floating ball to equalize in Kansas City:


Toronto will have to be wary of giving up those set-pieces in dangerous locations and be on their toes when tracking their marks.

Making that task a fraction more difficult is that Dallas is not afraid to use any over-aggressive contact to their advantage – they have won three penalty kicks, two through Diaz and the other for DeAndre Yedlin’s forearm shiver this past weekend.

The Yedlin call was obvious – even Sigi Schmid could not make an argument to the contrary – but the other two were debatable, especially the one against Montreal on opening day:


Don’t give him the chance – of course, that is easier said than done.

Exploitation

Clearly suppressing the Dallas attack – who lead the league with fifteen goals through six matches – will be a difficult task, but thankfully there are a few weaknesses to exploit on their back-line.

First, they do concede a fair number of goals – nine, which sees them in the back-half of the league in that statistic.

In the absence of George John, either Stephen Keel or Moises Hernandez has been drafted into the centre-back pairing, which has exposed vulnerability.

Hernandez was sharply beat by Andrew Wenger back in that opening match, when the former Impact forward darted in front of the centre-back to win the header:


And it’s not just the replacement centre-backs who have been slow to pick up those runs, Hedges himself, at times excellent, was fully abused by Cubo Torres on this goal:


That sounds like Jermain Defoe territory, but with him and Dwayne de Rosario unavailable hopefully Andrew Wiedeman can take advantage. If not, well, Issey Nakajima-Farran has shown good alertness on getting on the end of service, and it is a safe wager that Jackson would love to get one over on his old team.

One further example comes from Clint Dempsey’s second goal this past weekend:


See how both Keel and Hedges step out, drawn to Obafemi Marins, who takes them both out of position with a little lay-off to Dempsey, leaving Jair Benitez the unenviable task of dealing with both Dempsey and Barrett.

He makes the obvious choice and goes to close down the space allowed to Dempsey, which opens up Barrett wide. Dallas is slow on the turn and Dempsey is allowed to get goal-side ball-side and all Barrett needs to do is hit him with a pass and the game is won.

Toronto has yet to show a lot of clever build up, of which this passage from Seattle is a brilliant example. The constant rotation in the starting lineup has not been helpful in that regard, and the absence of De Rosario won't help with that, but hopefully Gilberto can find instant chemistry with Wiedeman, another former Dallas player who'd enjoy scoring against his old team.

That Dallas has conceded two own-goals is a further indication of the scrambled nature of their defending.

The inattention to detail in the run of play has proved equally costly from set-pieces. Aurelien Collin should never be this free in the box from a corner kick:


Nor should Ricardo Clark be marked by Zach Loyd on a Brad Davis free-kick:


Nothing says danger like Collin in the box and Clark from a Davis free-kick, so for the Dallas defense to not meet that threat speaks volumes.

Set-pieces are always dangerous; they require a cool head and a collective management of the risk to dismiss the threat – this could well be the area of the game that decides the match.

Doneil Henry would have a field day with this sort of thing, but as his inclusion is still unknown, Steven Caldwell is more than due.

Points of Interest

This will be the only meeting between the cross-conference foes this season, having drawn 2-2 back on April 6th of last year in TorontoAndrew Jacobson and Blas Perez put Dallas ahead by two, only for Justin Braun to draw one back and Darel Russell’s late screamer to equalize.

The two have met twelve times in league play – Dallas have dominated the series, winning six and drawing five; the sole TFC win came back their first-ever meeting, a 4-0 result at BMO Field on goals from Maurice Edu, Danny Dichio, Carl Robinson, and Jeff Cunningham:


The two also met in the CONCACAF Champions League in 2011 group stage play – no TFC fan will forget Joao Plata’s dynamic outing that night in Dallas:


Or the rained out first leg (pretty sure there was a tornado warning) that had to be played the following morning in front of a small crowd well fed by the CNE Food Building.

TFC has never won in Dallas (in league play), but they have drawn twice, including their last trip there in 2012, when Danny Koevermans overturned an early Zach Loyd goal, the match ending 1-1.

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