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Know Your Enemy: FC Dallas. Part 2 - Tactics, Exploitation & Points Of Interest

Click here for Part 1 looking at lineup and recent form.

The Tactics

The most consistent aspect is a sturdy back-four with Daniel Hernandez sitting in front to provide a stable base from which their attack can build.

Hernandez can be masterful in distribution, if allowed the time on the ball to pick out passes and spring Dallas' speedy attack. Shutting him down with pressure was a key tactic in what was TFC's best performance under Aron Winter, that 0-3 win in Texas in the final group match of the CONCACAF Champions League last October.

Alongside Hernandez - or his replacement when unavailable - in the middle is Andrew Jacobsen, who is allowed more freedom to foray forward to support and join the attack.

Quotes from the coach indicate the formation last match was a 4-4-2, but - as indicated in the lop-sided diagram - Fabian Castillo has a tendency to play so wide on the left that he does not appear to be a striker as much as an out-and-out winger, exploiting space on the flank and driving towards the goal.

Under this construct much is expected of both Brek Shea and whoever is at left-back. With Jacobsen pulling double-duty - offense and defense - in the middle of the park, Shea needs to range from the touchline to the centre and the full-back needs to cover a lot of ground. If as forecast Jair Benitez is unavailable, Carlos Rodriguez needs to replicate the kind of enthusiastic performance that is expected from the former.

Most of the attack will come down that left side, with Castillo using his pace to trouble the opposition and linking up with Shea, as he did against Chivas.

On the opposite flank, Zach Loyd can get forward and delivers a fine cross, but with Jackson in front of him, normally concentrates on being solid defensively, only occasionally looking for the overlap.

Hernandez will handle most dead-ball service and has a fierce long-range strike on him. But last match, when Hernandez's corners were inconsistent Jackson took over and improved upon the situation.

If playing, Blas Perez is without doubt the main source of danger. He's big, strong, deceptively quick; good in the air and excellent around the box. His signing in the offseason was undoubtedly one of the best acquisitions made by any club in MLS.

One of his favourite tactics - one others will try as well - from corner kicks is stay away from the scrum, ghosting to either the far-post or sliding in around the penalty spot for a header.

His goal against Philadelphia is a perfect example of the first location: a right-sided Bryan Leyva corner kick is flicked on by George John at the near-post for a lurking Perez to meet with a diving header at an unmanned back-stick to take the lead.

The next match, against Chicago, shows how the other approach works as well. Perez, hanging back around the spot connects with another Leyva corner kick from the right. His header is saved, but the rebound falls kindly for Matt Hedges to nod into the net.

Loyd has a long-throw on him, so TFC need be cautious on restarts from the touch-lines.


As mentioned earlier, smothering Hernandez in the middle will limit his ability to spring Castillo into space behind the Toronto right-back, expect Terry Dunfield to be positioned up the pitch to harass him similarly to his job against Dax McCarty this past Saturday. Jeremy Hall - or Richard Eckersley, if he returns to his full-back role - will have to keep a close eye on the speedy Castillo. If he gets behind his marker, he will stretch the tightly-knit defensive unit and open space for late arrivals into the box to exploit.

Pressure Shea when he gets the ball, if he is allowed time to turn and face goal or build a head of steam and take a shot - as he did when the sides last met in Toronto - he can be devastating.

Dallas has been troubled by mistakes at the back and by poor-marking on set-pieces; perhaps a function of the constant shuffling of the lineup throughout the season limiting familiarity and communication.

Philadelphia's goal is a fine example: what should have been a simple clearance by Loyd is instead left to Rodriguez and ends up falling into a dangerous area where Gabriel Gomez is ready to take advantage.

Toronto needs to be ready to pounce and commit men forward into the box to force mistakes from the makeshift defensive unit.

Kevin Hartman is a fine shot-stopper, but can try to do too much and lacks the agility to always recover in time for rebounds and redirections. Alvaro Saborio's second goal for Salt Lake exhibits how a slight deflection catches the keeper leaning the wrong way and results in him not being able to get down to stop what should have been an otherwise routine attempt.

Dallas has received five red cards this season, with Daniel Hernandez picking up a pair to lead the league - both were second yellows.

Getting in his face should already be a focal point; but he tends to let his emotions get the better of him - against DC, Dwayne De Rosario was running him ragged and he let his frustration lead him to a silly kick out, while in Colorado his displeasure with the referee saw him booked for dissent before picking up a second nine minutes later for blocking out Martin Rivero in transition.

They have been involved in seven penalty kicks - three for and four against. Shea scored both his attempts, while Perez's attempt was saved by Chicago's Sean Johnson.

Hartman has a knack for saving penalties - denying Kei Kamara and Sebastian Grazzini, though Bernardo Corradi blasted his past him. Chris Seitz faced the other attempt from Robbie Keane, but went untested as Keane sent it wide.

Points of Interest

FC Dallas Western Conference 9th Place

Points 14 Games 17 Wins 3, Losses 9, Draws 5

Goals For 16 Against 26 Goal Differential -10

At Home 3-2-4

On the Road 0-7-1

Last Five T-L-L-L-T

Due to the unbalanced schedule, this is the only meeting between the sides this season.

Dallas won both matches 1-0 last season. In Dallas off the strength of a Hernandez penalty kick in the last minute of the first half and in Toronto, spoiling the debuts of Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans, when Shea skipped through the midfield and lashed a rocket of a shot past Stefan Frei.

Bad luck and questionable officiating has a way of striking TFC in Dallas - TFC Hates Bouncy Castles

The sides met twice in Champions League play last season - the first in Toronto, hampered by lightning with Dallas leading through a Jackson tally, was restarted the following morning with Dallas emerging victorious, the lone goal scored by Jack Stewart in first half stoppage time. The second - the aforementioned 0-3 TFC win in Frisco - thanks to a Joao Plata brace and a Danny Koevermans strike.

Eric Avila and Jeremy Hall are former FC Dallas players, with Avila - who spent three seasons with the club - a particular fan favourite.

Keep an eye out for those Yellowtail Yellow Cards.

You can find more of James Grossi’s insightful ramblings over at Partially Obstructed View and follow him on twitter @Grawsee