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Tactical switch pushes FC Dallas to victory over San Antonio

FC Dallas plays San Antonio FC during the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Wednesday, June 6, 2018, at Toyota Field in San Antonio, Texas. (Darren Abate/USL)

On Wednesday, FC Dallas defeated San Antonio FC 1-0 at Toyota Field. A lone goal from winger Tesho Akindele was enough for Dallas to see out the victory over the second-tier side. Here are some takeaways from the match.

Halftime tactical switch turned tide

San Antonio FC started out in a 3-4-3 to counter FC Dallas’ 4-3-3. It was very similar to the systems ran in the USA-Mexico Concacaf qualifying match almost a year ago, where the U.S. implemented a pressing system, but also sat back and allowing Mexico to have the ball. San Antonio did that in the early stages, causing trouble for FC Dallas as the team attempted to build out of the back. Many times, a midfielder would receive the ball facing his own goal and be pressed by two SAFC players, forcing a turnover and early chances.

SAFC dropped its wingbacks deep when defending, but when pressing, the players were high up the pitch. Dallas slowly found the hole between the wingback and centerback by playing balls from the back. The balls were overhit but the idea was there, as Ema Twumasi and Akindele had acres of space to operate in if the ball was controlled.

Omar Gordon caused many issues for the Dallas backline. Maynor Figueroa, who was at left back, has been struggling lately dealing with MLS wingers during league matches. Those struggles continued as Gordon wreaked havoc on the left-hand side, forcing a goal-line clearance and constantly getting in behind the defense. Óscar Pareja even tried switching Matt Hedges and Figueroa but that didn’t work as well, as Gordon had his best opportunity of the night, getting through and forcing a save out of Maurer before Hedges stopped a follow-up shot on the goal line.

Pareja’s adjustment was a change to the 3-5-2. Postgame, Pareja said he wanted an extra body in the midfield, subbing on Santiago Mosquera to be the attack-minded midfielder. Part of the switch was a press by Akindele, Michael Barrios, and Mosquera, the three attacking players. On the goal, Barrios is pressing up and creates the goal off of the turnover. Throughout the second half, the three would press the three centerbacks of San Antonio, forcing them to make decisions. The move also helped Figueroa, as he was not one-v-one with Gordon anymore. Instead, Twumasi or a midfielder would pick him up. San Antonio did switch to a 4-3-3 late, but still could not break through and Dallas prevailed.

Young guys get debuts

Twumasi and Jordan Cano made their debuts for FC Dallas in the match. Each of them has played USL matches with the Oklahoma City Energy, but both seemed a little nervous at the beginning of the match. It took time for them to settle in. When they did, they looked sharp. Twumasi quietly had a solid game on the wing. He created chances and even switched to the wingback role after halftime. The best thing for a defender is to not be talked about and Twumasi did well. 

“It’s something we went over in practice over the last couple of days,” Twumasi said. “It’s a position I have played before, so I’m kind of familiar with the position, so when Oscar told us to switch to that formation, I was aware of what I was getting myself into and I was ready for the task.”

Cano made the goal-line clearance and shifted into the three-man backline seamlessly. He’s confident on the ball, something that’s important for the centerback role. Dallas likes having its backline play balls from the back to spring attacks, and Cano has the ability to do that. He just needs more playing time, which Pareja is constantly looking for.

“We played that in college a lot more, so I was pretty used to it,” Cano said when asked about the backline switch. “We have to adjust, and there’s no excuses no matter what you do or who you are. You got to come out here and do your job. Whoever they tell you to play, you have to go out there and do your best. I adjusted to whatever Oscar asked, so we were ready.”

7

Dallas is now unbeaten in seven matches across all competitions. The team sits second in the Western Conference and is in the Round of 16 in U.S. Open Cup play, with a trip to first-place Sporting Kansas City next weekend.

After a start where many thought Dallas was drawing too many matches, the team has put together solid results on the road and at home. Wins at Toronto and at home against Los Angeles FC highlight this run.

This period of match congestion was tough for Dallas, but if the team wins against the Montreal Impact Saturday, that’s a fantastic end to what seemed to be a very difficult period. This year’s team has depth and competition at almost every spot. But the time of the year last season when Dallas collapsed is approaching. Summer, it seems, is where the real tests begin in MLS.

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