>Thursday Lunch Special: Previewing FC Dallas

Posted: November 18, 2010 in mls
Tags: , , , ,

>By Evan Ream

Lineup: FC Dallas (like all other teams in MLS) play a version of a 4-4-2 formation; however unlike Colorado, they don’t have two true forwards. They play more of a 4-4-1-1, though I refuse to call it a 4-5-1 because David Ferreira has no defensive responsibilities. Their formation will likely look like this Sunday:

Atiba Harris
David Ferreira
Brek Shea    Daniel Hernandez    Dax McCarty    Marvin Chavez
Jair Benitez    Ugo Ihemelu    George John    Jackson
Kevin Hartman

In this formation, Dallas relies on short passes and lots of off the ball movement to be successful. David Ferreira is their most important player, as all of Dallas’ offense goes through him. Ferreira really doesn’t have a set position. He often drifts wide or deep in the midfield to collect the ball, but he is not a true midfielder, as he does not play any defense whatsoever. Still, Ferreira is always in a great place for an outlet pass for a counter attack. He is successful at what he does because of not only his physical quickness, but his mental quickness as well; he thinks faster than most players in MLS do.
Atiba Harris isn’t really a natural forward, but as Alecko Eskandarian pointed out on his Twitter, he never losses 50-50 balls. Dallas can play long balls (though they usually won’t) to Harris while Ferreira runs off of him. It should be noted that Harris could easily be replaced with Jeff Cunningham although I think Coach Schellas Hyndman prefers a big bruising body to Cunningham’s small, speedy body.
The midfield is the key to Dallas. Brek Shea and Marvin Chavez play very wide most of the time although they switch sides a lot and sometimes even switch with David Ferreira. If the past three games are any indication, Schellas Hyndman has pretty much allowed the trio of Ferreira, Shea, and Chavez to roam around the field as long as they don’t ignore their defensive responsibilities. Daniel Hernandez and Dax McCarty are both solid midfielders who excel at linking play. Hernandez is more of a destroyer while McCarty is more of a creator, though both excel at winning 50-50 balls and delivering strong tackles when needed. With the amount that Dallas pushes into the attack, they really rely on Hernandez and McCarty to break up counter attacks.
Defensively, Dallas is solid but very mistake prone. Jair Benitez is an amazing attacking back, though he suffers from the occasional mental lapse. Ugo Ihemelu is somewhat of a similar player to Marvell Wynne of the Rapids. Like Wynne, Ihemelu is a fast, athletic center back who has questionable positioning. I would say that Wynne is more athletic, but Ihemelu is smarter; though overall, they are about as good as each other. George John is pretty much the opposite of Ihemelu. He is relatively slow, but he is very smart and has excellent positional sense. John will probably match up with Conor Casey while Ihemelu will take Omar Cummings in order to maximize their skill sets. Jackson the right back is the only question for the defense. He hasn’t really played that many games but he has shown well in the few that he has played. Heath Pearce is apparently fit and could start, but I’m not sure that Dallas wants to mess with their lineup. Jackson is by far a worse player than Pearce, but he is riding a good wave of form; Dallas probably won’t change up anything here.
Dario Sala
Roberto Luna
Jeff Cunningham
Eric Avila
Eric Alexander
Zach Loyd
Heath Pearce
Most of these players would be starters on Colorado’s team. Dallas has enough depth that they can bring a player, who although not in his prime, has 132 career MLS goals and 33 goals in 66 games for FC Dallas. The fact that they aren’t starting one of the best goal scorers in MLS history is definitely a good sign. The two Erics, Avila and Alexander, are both exciting young players that aren’t quite ready to start, but they can both make impacts off the bench as seen by Avila’s game winning goal against Real Salt Lake. Zach Loyd is a solid young defender that can be brought on late to protect leads though he may be rendered moot with Heath Pearce fit as he is definitely the sixth choice defender. Read about Dario Sala in the liabilities section.
Three Key Players:
Kevin “EL GATO” Hartman has been the best and most important player in the playoffs thus far. Dallas’ defense isn’t really that good, in fact Colorado’s is probably better, but they don’t get bailed out multiple times every game by the cat. Hartman will likely have to make one or two key saves if Dallas is to win MLS Cup.
David Ferreira David Ferreira #10 of FC Dallas paces the ball past Stefani Miglioranzi #15 and David Beckham #23 of the Los Angeles Galaxy in the first half during the MLS match at The Home Depot Center on September 12, 2009 in Carson, California.David Ferreira is going to be named MVP of the league tomorrow, so how can he not be in the key players section? Dallas’ offense starts and ends with Ferreira, who has one goal and four assists on the six goals Dallas has scored in the postseason. If Kevin Hartman has been the best player in the playoffs, David Ferreira has been the second best easily.
soc_g_dhernandez_200Daniel Hernandez is the team captain and one of the most underrated players in the league. If Colorado is stronger in any one area then Dallas is, it is probably central midfield and that is why he must shut down the duo of Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz who, though limited offensively, can still be amazingly influential on the game.
Dario Sala is so bad that I’m including him in the liabilities section even though he will likely not play a minute in the game. Kevin Hartman is carrying an injury at the moment which makes it more likely that Sala will play; but mark my words, if Sala plays for even just a minute in the game, FC Dallas will lose this game. My brother has more stats in his prediction tomorrow but all I’m going to say right now is that Kevin Hartman’s goals against average was 0.62 per game while Sala’s was 1.6… with the same defense in front of him. This is the definition of a liability.
Wells Thompson - Colorado Rapids v FC DallasJackson is the only other liability that I can think of and he may not even play. Landon Donovan knocked him off the ball in the last game of the regular season, which is pretty embarrassing as Landon weighs in at about 145 pounds soaking wet. Jackson just looks to be mistake prone and though he hasn’t made one yet, he very well could on the biggest stage.
Overall, FC Dallas is the better team than Colorado, though it is close enough that it will be a good game. Join us tomorrow when the TSL staff and guest writers share their MLS Cup predictions; you won’t want to miss that article.


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