Talking Tactics: Colorado at FC Dallas

Two weeks ago, we claimed that it was only a matter of time before FC Dallas opened the scoring floodgates. They ran rampant against Chicago before going a man down, and the Hoops were then unlucky to lose to a thoroughly outclassed San Jose squad. Last week, Columbus managed to thwart Dallas, though once more going a man down certainly didn't help matters.

Against the Colorado Rapids on Friday, Schellas Hyndman's commitment to attacking soccer was finally validated. He stuck with his 4-1-3-1-1, though injuries and suspensions necessitated a few changes.

The absences of Jair Benitez and Jackson forced a reshuffling along the backline and in midfield. Brek Shea switched from center back to left back, Ugo Ihemelu moved into the middle of defense, Zach Loyd stepped in on the right and Andrew Jacobson had his turn attempting to replace Dax McCarty.

Despite the changed personnel, Hyndman didn't reveal any new strategies. Colorado, similarly, brought out the same 4-4-2 they used to win the MLS Cup last season. When a squad playing a 4-4-2 faces a three-man central midfield, it has two choices: A) Drop a forward into the midfield to dispel the man advantage, or B) pinch in the outside midfielders and concede space on the wings.

Colorado chose the former, though it did little good. Omar Cummings was usually the forward helping in defense, but he rarely dropped deep enough to be of any use. In contrast, Conor Casey disrupted Dallas' midfield throughout the 2010 MLS Cup Final. On Friday, of course, Casey and captain/midfield stalwart Pablo Mastroeni were absent.

Cummings needed to replicate Casey's defensive tenacity to prevent the central midfield duo of Jeff Larentowicz and Joseph Nane from being overrun. Cummings wasn't up for the challenge and without Mastroeni, Colorado couldn't handle the high-pressing Hoops.

Time after time, David Ferreira, Milton Rodriguez, Fabian Castillo and Marvin Chavez pressured Colorado into silly giveaways. In the first 10 minutes, Ferreira twice caused goalkeeper Matt Pickens to shank a clearance.

The high pressing, and Dallas' excellent ball retention, ensured that almost the entire first half was played on Colorado's side of the field. The two goals -- and a flurry of shots, corners and numerous half-chances -- couldn't do justice to Dallas' domination. As Colorado manager Gary Smith noted at halftime, the Rapids were lucky to head to the locker room only down two.

Second half

Whatever changes Smith sought at halftime quickly went out the window. Colorado hadn't even touched the ball before the Hoops were up three. A simple one-two from Daniel Hernandez and Eric Avila (who had come on for an injured Chavez) led to a Ferreira brace.

With the match all but over, Dallas eased off, though whenever Colorado seemed to be inching back toward relevancy, a Dallas player would flummox the Rapids with more intense pressing. To wit, in the 82nd minute substitute Ruben Luna flew toward Pickens to force another poor clearance.

And really, what more needs to be said? Colorado, down three goals in the dying minutes, couldn't get out of its own half.

Blake Owen is the editor and publisher of futbolforgringos.com.