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FC Dallas traveled north to play the defending MLS Champions. Toronto FC has had a less than stellar season as going into the game Toronto was 3-6-1 after going all in in the CONCACAF Champions League where they fell to Chivas Guadalajara in final on penalties. Clearly, champions league hangover is a real issue as FC Dallas themselves suffered last season after losing in the semis to Pachuca in the same tournament. FC Dallas went into this match not wanting to take their opponents for granted despite the struggles Toronto have faced and while the game was not flashy, the Huntsmen executed their gameplan very well. Let’s dive into it.

FCD opened the game with a new formation that has not been used this season in a 4-3-3 with some notable changes.

FC Dallas
FC Dallas starting lineup versus Toronto FC “Picture: FC Dallas”

Birthday boy Jesse Gonzalez got the nod from Oscar Pareja after a disappointing previous game from Jimmy Maurer against the Whitecaps where he gave up a last-minute penalty. Additionally, Anton Nedyalkov was absent from the line as he broke his collarbone in practice this week and will be out for 6-8 weeks. Maynor Figueroa stepped in for the injured Nedyalkov. Victor Ulloa was a personal surprise for me as I thought with a Toronto consisting of Vazquez, Osorio, and Giovinco, that Papi (Oscar Pareja) would want to go with the pure destroyer that Carlos Gruezo offers. Lastly, Michael Barrios returned to the starting 11 and considering how Mauro Diaz and Maxi Urruti responded to being benched earlier this season, the same would work for Barrios. As seen Diaz, was benched as well so right from the get-go, it was Papi’s intention to go at Toronto from the counter. When defending our shaped turned more into a 4-5-1 or 5-4-1 and when attacking with the counter turning into a 4-3-3 or 3-4-3.

Within the first two minutes, FCD already faced a threatening attempt from Giovinco standing over a freekick just outside the box, but Jesse came up huge with an amazing save.

Additionally

In the 11′ Maynor Figueroa was all aware of the space that Santiago Mosquera had on the left flank and played a nice throw-in to Santi who played a nice cross into the box. Barrios made an amazing dummy run to draw Toronto defenders allowing Kellyn Acosta to take his first shot which Maxi amazingly deflected into the corner making the score 1-0. This is textbook counter-attacking and just was FCD was looking to do.

Unfortunately, FCD fans euphoria was short-lived off of a very questionable penalty where Mat Hedges “tackles” Giovinco in the box. The birthday boy had other thoughts

Jesse was making an amazing case to the coaching staff on why he should have the starting role in goal.

FC Dallas was able to go into the half a with a valuable 1-0 lead putting the pressure on Toronto FC. In the second half, Toronto came out with the intent of looking for an equalizer and the win. Roland Lamah, in the 69′, would come in for Barrios who I felt was a having a good game despite some really good goal-scoring opportunities that could have been handled better. With Dallas looking to shut down goal-score opportunities for Toronto, Oscar opted to bring in Gruezo in the 73′ for Acosta. Kellyn had a good came and at times played as a good 10 for Dallas. Hopefully, he is able to go a full 90 to help round out his return from injury. With lacking control in the middle, Papi made his last substitution by bringing in Diaz for Santi in 80′.

Overall it was an amazing job by Oscar Pareja and the coaching staff as they got the tactics spot on to come away with a huge win and 3 points on the road. It was great to see that the team was able to adapt but concerning how Toronto kept attacking through our left side and able to exploit Figueroa. Our defense was also concerning to me as it appeared we just did “crash defending” where we all just ran at the player with the ball and all 11 players came back to defend. While we did come away with the shutout, the defending was not convincing. Also, we really need to work on finishing our chances and having creativity and treat with our attack. Jesse by far was the man of the match with tying a franchise record of 7 saves in the first half and ending the night with 9 saves. Here are the highlights.

FC Dallas has played their first game of 3 in nine days and first of four games in 16 days as they head back on the road the play the Los Angeles Galaxy. The game will take place on Wednesday, May 30 at 9:30 pm and will be televised on TXA 21.

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