Until Marvin Chavez's 9th minute goal, FC Dallas had completed 11 more passes (46 to 31) than the Los Angeles Galaxy. Over the remaining 81+ minutes, Dallas ended up on the losing end of a 276 to 219 passes completed deficit. LA's possession advantage created plenty of opportunities for David Beckham to work his magic.
But those opening 9 minutes were full of promise. Schellas Hyndman stuck with his 4-2-3-1 and gave striker Maicon Santos his debut. Santos showed that he should be able to bridge the gap between a traditional target forward (Ruben Luna) and a speedster (Marvin Chavez). Santos looked equally comfortable holding up the ball or racing beyond defenders. On Saturday, it was his pace that created Dallas' goal. The Brazilian chased down a Zach Loyd chip and then set up Marvin Chavez at the top of the box.
On paper, Hyndman's 4-2-3-1 gave Dallas a man advantage in midfield against LA's 4-4-2. The positioning of Landon Donovan, ostensibly lined up at left midfield, evened the numbers. Donovan, whose successful passes can be seen at right, spent most of his time in front of center midfielders Juninho and David Beckham. Without Donovan's presence in the middle, it's unlikely Los Angeles could have held possession so easily.
LA's strategy was not without risk. Donovan's positioning meant left back Todd Dunivant was the only defender responsible for Chavez. Dallas, though, didn't exploit the isolated left back. Central midfielders Bruno Guarda and Daniel Hernandez rarely sent the ball Chavez's way. The winger only attempted 17 passes on the day. Donovan did an admirable job tracking back, but Hyndman may second-guess himself for not force-feeding Chavez. On the other flank, Brek Shea was held in check by two fullbacks, AJ DeLaGarza and Sean Franklin.
With Dallas not taking advantage of Donovan's roaming, LA was free to saunter deep into the Dallas half. The Red Stripes didn't allow the home side to create many opportunities from open play, but they did concede a number of unnecessary free kicks and corners. David Beckham took advantage to set up all three LA goals from set pieces. Tired legs surely played a role in some of the defensive clumsiness, but if these two teams meet again in the playoffs, Hyndman will need to find a way to make Donovan think twice about coming inside, lest Dallas find themselves subjected to more Beckham free kicks.
Blake Owen is the editor and publisher of futbolforgringos.com.