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Know Your Enemy: FC Dallas. Part 1 - Lineup and Form.

400 games and counting for <strike>Glenn Beck</strike> Kevin Hartman.
400 games and counting for Glenn Beck Kevin Hartman.

Toronto FC arrives in Dallas with the intention of maintaining their unbeaten run and improving on the new hard-to-beat ideology Paul Mariner has instilled in the club.

They will face an FC Dallas side mired in a club record eleven-match winless streak; as with most runs of this nature, there are a variety of extenuating circumstances that have contributed to that misfortune.

Primarily, Dallas' woes are due to an inordinate amount of debilitating injuries. Add a healthy share of suspension and a dollop of international commitment that have dramatically limited player availability, denying both the strongest lineup and a consistent eleven throughout the season.

Nearly two weeks off will have served Dallas well; several players returned to the pitch last match and more are nearing fitness.

But what - aside from the stifling heat - awaits them on Wednesday night's clash at the FC Dallas Stadium?

A closer look at Schellas Hyndman's Dallas is in order.

The Lineup

Generally speaking, when entirely fit, Dallas lines up in a 4-2-3-1 style formation. Hyndman has been forced into a series of variations on that theme - moving one of the defensive central midfielders forward to craft a 4-1-4-1 or pushing a wide attacker up to form a diamond 4-4-2.

Heading into the match their projected lineup will approach the diamond 4-4-2 and is as follows: Kevin Hartman - playing his four-hundredth MLS match - between the pipes; from right to left, an unchanged back-line of Zach Loyd, Hernan Pertuz, Matt Hedges, and Carlos Rodriguez; Daniel Hernandez sitting with Jackson, Andrew Jacobsen, and Brek Shea, across the midfield; Blas Perez and Fabian Castillo paired up top.

football formations

Concussions to both George John and club captain Ugo Ihemelu will see them sidelined; while Jair Benitez, first choice left-back, is nursing a sore knee. Hernandez is listed as questionable, but recent acquisition James Marcelin, formerly of Portland, has gradually made himself a serviceable replacement.

Both Jackson and Perez are also listed as questionable, but given the match must be seen as an opportunity to end the winless streak, should be ready; if not, Bryan Leyva will take one of the wide midfield positions, either taking Jackson's right-sided slot, or forcing Shea onto his off-wing, where he can cut onto his left-foot as an inverted winger.

Should Perez not pass a late fitness test, Scott Sealy - who has filled in in recent matches - would likely get the start. He does not provide the same scoring threat as the centre-forward, but is a hard worker, opening up space for the more dangerous wide attackers and pressuring defenders when out of possession.

Latest reports indicate that both long-term attacking midfield absentees, David Ferreira - who has missed some four-hundred and fifty plus days of action since suffering a devastating ankle injury last season in Vancouver - and Ricardo Villar - his nominal replacement in the team - are nearing fitness and will likely be on the bench for the match, ready to feature late in the second half should the situation allow or require.

The Form

An eleven-match winless streak speaks volumes about how the 2012 season has gone for Dallas, but, as is often the case - see TFC's nine-match losing streak to kick off the campaign - results do not often tell the whole story.

This streak, which dates back to the 21st of April, includes five draws, five one-goal losses, no defeats by more than two goals and only one match where they conceded three-plus goals - a dramatic 3-2 loss at Real Salt Lake, succumbing in stoppage time to a late winner; very much as Toronto did in the exact same situation.

Since returning from the International break, Dallas has only played two matches.

First, a hard fought Texas derby in Houston, which they lost 2-1 only after Benitez was shown a straight red - interestingly, his third against cross-state opposition - for an off-the-ball elbow on Colin Clark.

They went toe-to-toe with the Dynamo after conceding in the third minute - a scrappy goal when Pertuz's attempted clearance ricocheted off the shin of Will Bruin - drawing level through Jackson after sixty minutes - capitalizing on his own hard work by converting the rebound from a Sealy shot he himself had created.

Four minutes later Benitez was dismissed and Houston attacked in waves until Adam Moffat latched onto a partially cleared right-sided Brad Davis corner kick at the left-corner of the box, lacing a shot through a crowd into the far, top corner.

A disappointing result - and costly moment of madness - given the solid performance put in by the squad.

Their next match, the following Saturday, was back at home against Chivas USA.

With Shea returned from a lingering case of turf toe that has hampered his inclusion and performances for the past two months or so, Dallas was a wholly different proposition. They dominated the match, but were not able to score.

Chivas keeper, Dan Kennedy, played his role in maintaining a clean sheet for his side - including cutting out a low left-sided cross to the edge of the six yard box by Castillo as Shea flipped over him and a fantastic save on a Shea blast from the left side of the box after a Jacobsen cross fell kindly to the big Texan - as did Ante Jazic, who cleared a Castillo cross from a dangerous area in the first half, but Dallas' wastefulness with top-scorer Perez (five goals; three assists) - still recovering from a nagging foot injury suffered while away with Panama for World Cup Qualifying - absent, played its part as well.

The combination of Castillo, Shea, and Benitez rampaging on the left-side of the pitch was causing all sorts of havoc for the Ameri-Goats. Chivas were lucky to not concede a last-minute penalty when Danny Califf appeared to clothesline Castillo at the top, left corner of the box after Jackson made a fool of Ben Zemanski on the touch-line and played in the tricky Colombian in the ninety-fifth minute of play.

A decisive penalty claim dismissed to unfairly extend the streak, though enough signs of life for hope - a first clean-sheet during that stretch and another positive performance, indicative of a turning tide in Big D.

Come back soon for part 2, looking at tactics, areas of exploitation and points of interest, and as always, You can find more of James Grossi’s insightful ramblings over at Partially Obstructed View and follow him on twitter @Grawsee