Schellas Hyndman isn't unfamiliar with the tactics Seattle manager Sigi Schmid used to garner a 1-0 victory on Saturday. Schmid deployed a 4-4-1-1, conceding possession but pushing forward swiftly on the counter. Earlier in the week, Hyndman led FC Dallas to victory in Mexico with a similar, defense-first 4-2-3-1. Dallas held just 43% of possession in the 1-0 triumph over Pumas.
Seattle's tactics on Saturday seem even more familiar when looked at in context of the earlier MLS encounter between the two teams. In that mirror-image 1-0 Dallas victory, the victors managed only 33% of possession, with Brek Shea and Andrew Jacobson combining on a counter to notch the lone goal. Saturday, Mauro Rosales and Freddy Montero produced a similar goal on a counter that originated from an almost identical location on the pitch.
The 16th minute tally, like Shea's goal in Seattle, occurred against the run of play. Up to that point, Dallas had attempted 63 passes, Seattle 40. Ugo Ihemelu's botched clearance on the sequence only added insult to injury.
The home side maintained a similar possession advantage for the rest of the match. Dallas completed 92 more passes than Seattle, including a 16 passes completed advantage after Daniel Cruz's puzzling second yellow card.
And it's not as if Seattle didn't have the shape or personnel to attempt a possession-minded strategy. Schmid's 4-4-1-1 allowed withdrawn forward Freddy Montero space in front of the center backs, as the diminutive but spry Michael Fucito constantly dragged one of the center backs wide. Schmid trusted his defense to hold firm, hoping that a lone goal would lead to a full three points.
And, for the most part, Seattle's defending was solid. But right back Zach Scott did his best to allow Dallas to equalize. Scott's 5 fouls conceded (including a yellow card), topped his team's chart. While Scott did a decent job bothering Shea, he struggled to find proper positioning whenever another attacker moved to the flank. Maicon Santos exploited Scott's lax defending and completed 7 of his 19 passes left of center.
But as a team, Seattle produced an overall solid defensive effort. Center back Jhon Hurtado made a brilliant tackle to deny Shea an early 1 on 1 with Kasey Keller, the entire backline made a few key clearances, and Keller made a fantastic save in injury time.
The upcoming US Open Cup semifinal should produce similar heroics, though hopefully Hyndman, not Schmid, will come out on top.
Blake Owen is the editor and publisher of futbolforgringos.com.