Real Salt Lake might not utilize Barcelona's 4-3-3, but they are the MLS team that most closely replicates the Catalans' intricate tiki-taka passing style. Salt Lake's fluid offense gave Schellas Hyndman's new counter-attacking style its sternest test yet. The Hoops did an admirable job preventing the visitors from creating decent looks at goal, but the home side wasn't much better in front of the net.
Salt Lake uses a base 4-4-2 but the roles of the midfielders often change the shape quite drastically. The two central midfielders make a vertical rather than a horizontal line and the wingers play very narrow, causing the formation to alternatively look like a 4-3-1-2 or a 4-2-2-2. The midfielders’ positioning allows Salt Lake to easily ping the ball around as they work their way up the field.
Dallas, though, did an outstanding job defending the possession-based attack. All four members of the backline were constantly aware of their positioning and, as a result, Salt Lake was repeatedly whistled for offside. Additionally, wingers Brek Shea and Eric Alexander ventured inward when necessary, the strikers pressured the fullbacks and center backs, and Ugo Ihemelu and George John anticipated a number of Salt Lake passes on the edge of the box. As a result, Salt Lake’s best scoring opportunity - other than a handful of crosses - was a shot from distance by Will Johnson. Kevin Hartman comfortably parried the effort.
Direct, if unimaginative attack
On the other end of the pitch, Dallas continued its recent trend of direct, quick attacks. The Hoops, who had just 35% of possession in the 1st half, came closest to scoring from open play on a 6th minute counter. Following a Salt Lake corner, Jackson pushed forward before laying off for Marvin Chavez on the edge of the box. Chavez’s teasing service slashed across the face of goal, just out of the reach of Fabian Castillo and Shea.
Other than a John toe poke following a Dallas corner (23) and an Eric Alexander shot from distance (47), Nick Rimando wasn’t called on to make any saves. Dallas created a few opportunities from counters, none better than a pair of endeavors (6 and 56) led by the lively Jackson. But too often excellent service from the wing went wasted. It's not immediately clear if the outside midfielders and fullbacks were pulling the trigger too early or if the forwards weren't making the correct runs. Either way, Hyndman will want his squad to work on timing their crosses and runs in the box before Wednesday's match with Seattle.
Blake Owen is the editor and publisher of futbolforgringos.com.