FC Dallas hasn't forgotten how to play a 1-striker system. Fabian Castillo's absence (he's currently with the Colombian U-20's) forced Schellas Hyndman's hand against Portland, and the gaffer dropped his recently-favored 4-4-2 for a 4-2-3-1.
Much of the first half echoed the tactics of the two teams' April encounter. Portland looked to counter with their 4-4-2 (Kenny Cooper dropped into the midfield to occasionally create a 4-4-1-1) while Dallas attempted to work its way down the field with a short passing game. The Red Stripes were fortunate that Saturday's match didn't resemble the April loss in another fashion -- giving up goals off set pieces. Kevin Hartman misjudged a pair of early free kick deliveries, but Portland failed to take advantage.
Dallas was much more clinical on its set pieces. Both first half goals -- converted by Zach Loyd and George John -- came off corners by Daniel Hernandez. While Loyd and John did well to finish the excellent service from Hernandez, much of the credit needs to go to the build-up play that earned the corners.
Dallas, lacking a traditional striker, essentially ignored the area of the pitch where the 'No. 9' normally plays. Both attacking midfielder Eric Alexander and striker Marvin Chavez cheated wide. As a result, when Dallas advanced to the final third, it rarely completed passes in the middle of the pitch. In the following chalkboard, notice how few passes Dallas completed in that area, highlighted in red.
Only the first Dallas goal couldn't be at least partially attributed to outstanding flank play (a Jackson chip into the middle freed Alexander to earn a corner). On the second, a cross-field pass from Chavez to Shea set up a corner; the third was created when Jackson cut inside to combine with Alexander, allowing Shea to clean up a rebound; and the final tally was, again, set up by Jackson moving from the flank to a central area.
The fourth goal was a result of the use of an inverted-winger, a tactic discussed in this space last week. Jackson, a righty, cut in from the left flank before unleashing a right-footed shot that was -- following an attempted save -- tapped in by Ruben Luna.
Given how well Dallas played in its return to a 1-striker system, and the success it has had playing counter-attacking and possession-based soccer, Hyndman has a headache most managers would envy. His squad is capable of performing well using a variety of formations and tactics. In the continued absence of Castillo, it's likely Hyndman will stay with the lone striker, but when he returns, Hyndman will have some hard tactical decisions to make.
Blake Owen is the editor and publisher of futbolforgringos.com.