Schellas Hyndman seems to have found a formation and personnel grouping he likes, but an injury to George John forced him to make a change against the Houston Dynamo. Rookie Bobby Warshaw filled-in for the injured center back. The inclusion of Warshaw allowed Brek Shea to remain at left wing, though the young Warshaw would make an elementary mistake that changed the course of the match.
Defensive miscues cost Dallas the full three points, but the attack remained strikingly efficient. Despite a 23% possession disadvantage, Dallas only took one less shot on goal than the Dynamo. The efficient attack can partially be attributed to the movement of Fabian Castillo and Marvin Chavez.
One of the simplest ways for an attacker to flummox a defense is to stand where he isn't supposed to, a trend that began generations ago. As Jonathan Wilson notes in Inverting the Pyramid: A History of Football Tactics, England's 1953 loss to Hungary was caused by, among other things, the positioning of Nandor Hidegkuti, who wore the No. 9 but played anything like a traditional '9.' Hidegkuti spent most of his time in midfield and stretched England's defense with his nouveau positioning.
David Ferreira has fulfilled a similar role for FC Dallas the last few years. But with the shift to the 4-4-2, defenders theoretically have an easier time accounting for Marvin Chavez and Fabian Castillo. However, their tendency to swing wide can be just as troubling as Ferreira's penchant to drop deep. While it sometimes means Dallas' crosses lack bite, the strikers' movement paid off last night.
Indeed, Castillo and Chavez set up two goal-scoring chances when both were operating from the wing. In the 34th, the two strikers pulled away both Houston center backs, forcing right back Kofi Sarkodie to attempt to mark Brek Shea without any support. Shea, though, couldn't take advantage of the situation and sent his shot wide.
Seven minutes earlier, Andrew Jacobson had made the most of the wing play of Castillo and Chavez. Jacobson headed in the rebound of a Castillo shot, which had partially been created by both strikers swinging wide.
The second Dallas goal owed its existence to pressing from Brek Shea. The winger's defensive pressure forced a hurried Houston clearance, and after Dallas worked the ball upfield and earned a corner, Ugo Ihemelu knocked in Chavez's service.
Unfortunately, the defense made a negative contribution to the match as well. Two schoolboy errors allowed Houston to grab an equal share of the points, a galling outcome as Dallas was a man up when Houston bagged their second equalizer.
In the 41st, Warshaw neglected to follow Cam Weaver when the striker was in the box. Similarly, Chavez - who moved to right midfield after the 64th minute introduction of Milton Rodriguez for Eric Alexander - didn't track the run of Colin Clark in the 87th. Their lapses gave the two Dynamo players plenty of time to beat Kevin Hartman.
Given Dallas' 5-game shutout streak, it's obvious these defensive miscues aren't the norm, and the return of John should shore up the backline. Regrettably, last night's match showed why soccer can be such a frustrating game. However ingenious your attack, the slightest mistake at the other end can be devastating.
Blake Owen is the editor and publisher of futbolforgringos.com.