Roland Lamah did most of the damage for Dallas, scoring in the fifth and 21st minutes to leave Toronto chasing the match and exposed at the back for the remainder of the 90 minutes.
They pulled one back when Marky Delgado tapped in from a yard out after Sebastian Giovinco’s cross had been deflected behind goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez, but Maxi Urruti restored the home side’s two-goal lead with an emphatic finish at the end of one of Dallas’ many counter-attacks.
Urruti later hit the crossbar with Toronto feeling the effects of the absences of Justin Morrow, Raheem Edwards and Steven Beitashour at the back.
1. Beaten by a good team: Dallas may not have had Matt Hedges, Kellyn Acosta or Walker Zimmerman available but while it is impossible to win consistently without talent they are a team that is inarguably more than the sum of its parts.
Oscar Pareja’s game planning was excellent, with Lamah and Michael Barrios taking up exactly the spots that can trouble Toronto’s outside centre-backs and Urruti occupying Drew Moor through the middle. At the back, they smartly congested the central areas and challenged TFC to exploit the open space out wide, which they struggled to do with their absences at wing-back.
And Dallas hardly lacked quality with the personnel they did have available. Lamah is difficult to contain when he picks up a head of steam and Urruti turned in a textbook performance as the lone No. 9.
2. Mixed results at wing-back: This was always going to be a challenging game for Oyvind Alseth and Ashtone Morgan to make their first starts of the season in, and Toronto clearly missed their normal options out wide. The map of their average positions at half-time showed Delgado and Armando Cooper taking up much more advanced roles than usual:
This is not how TFC normally look. Delgado/Cooper overcompensating for lack of attacking threat from WBs, creating problems on counter. pic.twitter.com/SW2HPiLpNX— Oliver Platt (@plattoli) July 2, 2017
That, I think, was due to the lack of an overlapping threat from the wing-backs, putting the burden on the two midfielders to provide runs beyond the strikers. The problem was it left a lot of open space into which Dallas could counter, either by getting their midfielders on the ball or playing direct passes through the middle.
Alseth certainly did not disgrace himself; he was reasonably tidy in possession and not massively exposed defensively. He did not show a great deal of speed or timing when attacking though (I wouldn’t be surprised if his long-term future is at centre-back) and on the left, Morgan was not really a factor at either end of the pitch.
3. An away draw is never a bad thing: Toronto were a far more aggressive team than Dallas will be used to facing at their home stadium, and it’s hard not to think that the absences of Hedges, Acosta and Zimmerman had something to do with that.
That confidence ended up looking misguided. The Reds did get at the hosts’ back four and had enough chances to get something from the game, but they have rarely looked as defensively vulnerable as this in 2017. Surely the smarter strategy would have been to prioritize a clean sheet above all else and take what they were given by a makeshift Dallas defence when they had the opportunity.