It often seems that one of two things occurs when squads with similar shapes face off. The mirror-like either lead to an open, exciting game or a dull, stymied affair. Last night’s game in Kansas City ended up as the former.
Schellas Hyndman’s 4-2-3-1 and Peter Vermes’ 4-4-1-1 were both fluid when in possession . Each sides’ wingers, trequartista (attacking midfielder), and striker interchanged positions. It wasn’t exactly Barcelona’s free-flowing offense - and forwards Maicon Santos and Teal Bunbury spent most of the match in the middle - but the flexible front fours were certainly a welcome change from some of MLS’ more rigid 4-4-2’s.
The similar attack patterns resulted in an open first half. Two Dallas mistakes were the difference as the teams headed into halftime. Daniel Hernandez’s ill-advised charge forward after Marvin Chavez was dispossessed and Ugo Ihemelu’s awkward backpass on the same sequence allowed Kei Kamara to beat Kevin Hartman.
Kansas City was much more disciplined at the back, so despite some intricate Dallas build-up play - notably from Santos and Ricardo Villar - the Red Stripes were thwarted time and again in the final third.
Dallas couldn’t get on the board until the 70th, when Ihemelu nudged a Daniel Hernandez free kick into the net. But before Ihemelu’s tally, the visitors had dug themselves an even bigger hole when emergency center back Andrew Jacobson put Kevin Hartman in a bind with a poor headed backpass. Bunbury and Omar Bravo combined to put KC up by a brace.
After Ihemelu’s goal, however, Dallas controlled the remainder of the match. Of course, Bunbury’s second yellow (76th) ensured Dallas would have most of the possession as the game came to a close, but Hyndman deserves credit for taking the match by the neck. After the red card, he inserted Ruben Luna for Jair Benitez, dropping the 4-2-3-1 for a 3-4-3. Brek Shea, who earned the free kick that led to the first goal, was inspired by the extra space and assisted on the final two goals.
While it’s natural to bring on an attacker for a defender when up a man, Hyndman was still taking a chance with the 3-4-3. Dallas, coming off the odd game-and-a-half Wednesday/Thursday routine, was visibly fatigued in the second half. Hyndman ran the risk of tired legs being exposed on the counter. Fortunately, Hernandez provided a few tackles that stopped Kansas City attacks before they could get rolling. Add in Shea’s pinpoint crosses to Santos and Bobby Warshaw, and Hyndman again comes out looking like a genius.
Blake Owen is the editor and publisher of futbolforgringos.com.