Here are the best photos from Monday's playoff finale against Seattle courtesy of USA Today Sports Images:
Here are your match highlights from tonight's heartbreaking goalless draw in Seattle that ends FCD's season:
SEGMENT 1: Show hosts Marc Stein and Steve Davis talk about Thierry Henry and Landon Donovan, two figures who are moving toward retirement but still dominant in Major League Soccer's playoffs.
SEGMENT 2: ESPN FC's Craig Burley joins Stein and Davis to talk about Premier League matters, including an assessment of Stein's beloved Manchester City.
SEGMENT 3: A chat with TV personality Jimmy Conrad, who discusses the MLS playoff structure, a desire to see Andrea Pirlo in the league and much more.
SEGMENT 4: Mark and Steve talk about the U.S. national team's upcoming matches and Jurgen Klinsmann's possible selections; both hosts hope to see New England's Lee Nguyen as the Americans line up against Colombia on Friday in West London.
Hear from Matt Hedges, Victor Ulloa & Oscar Pareja on Monday's decisive playoff game in Seattle:
Here are your Toyota Keys to the Match for Monday's HUGE #SEAvFCD second leg playoff game.
It's voting season across the country and across MLS as well! One of the big voting awards each year is the MLSsoccer.com Latino del Año and we need you to vote FC Dallas! Last year we had Raul Fernandez go all the way to the finals and we need to get Blas Perez, Fabian Castillo & Raul into the next round!
Here's the groups and polls. VOTE VOTE VOTE:
WATCH: Group A
WATCH: Group D
WATCH: Group H
Oscar Pareja is known as a manager for his tactical tweaks and there were a couple that caught my eye in the last week of playoff games that I wanted to bring up.
Tesho's two very different roles
Rookie of the year frontrunner Tesho Akindele's role with FC Dallas varied over the last two months of the season as the rookie, who had started 14 straight games, appeared in the starting XI just three times over the last eight games of the regular season.
However, the Colorado School of Mines product has started both of FCD's playoff games, though his roles were very different in the two matches.
Against Vancouver, Akindele was played on the right side of the 4-2-3-1 formation and was a relatively purely offensive player in the match. As you can see from the game's OPTA Chalkboard, Akindele's defensive efforts were mainly simple clearances from set pieces looking to get up the field as quickly as possible to add to the attack. He and Castillo switched sides to effective results during the match and Tesho had the fantastic effort to open the scoring just before halftime.
The OPTA Chalkboard showed 10 "defensive" actions for Akindele in Wednesday's match with six of those coming in his defensive third and four of those in the box, presumably off set pieces. His heat map to the left showed he roamed around the field for the most part looking to combine with Castillo, Diaz and Perez up front.
The relatively direct attack of Vancouver was, by and large, snuffed out by the excellent center back duo of Walker Zimmerman and Matt Hedges with outside backs Zach Loyd and Je-Vaughn Watson cleaning up anything from the wings.
FC Dallas didn't need a huge defensive effort from their wingers against a Vancouver team that does not really rely on their outside backs to provide offense.
Oscar asked for a much different role from him star rookie against the Seattle Sounders, a team with arguably the most offensive outside back in Major League Soccer.
We'll talk about its effectiveness in a moment, but first I want to simply look at the role Tesho played against Seattle. Oscar asked him to sacrifice his offensive opportunities on Sunday night to work in conjunction with Moises Hernandez in slowing down the Sounders' right side of Yedlin and Lamar Neagle, the guy who unleashed a rocket-shot goal in their previous meeting.
As you can see from his heat map to the left, Tesho's role was much more defined in Sunday's game asking him to play a high defensive pressure game against the Sounders' right side duo. His actions are, for the vast majority, in one 30% area on the left side of the midfield, also in the 4-2-3-1 though not as defined as the one with Mauro at the #10 role.
As mentioned earlier, Tesho had 10 "defensive" actions in Wednesday's match mainly in the defensive third of the field where defending is a necesssity. Against Seattle, Akindele had 13 "defensive" actions, but they were almost exclusively in that middle third left side of the pitch where you see the heat map defining.
Tesho was asked to combine with Moises Hernandez to shut down DeAndre Yedlin and Lamar Neagle, something Dallas did extremely effectively. Pareja praised Tesho's efforts after Sunday's match.
Now let's talk about just how well the Dallas defense did against Yedlin
Slowing down the best attacking outside back in MLS
DeAndre Yedlin's star has risen faster than perhaps any young player in MLS history. The 21-year-old earned a big-money move to Tottenham Hotspur on the back of a great performance in the World Cup and while his defensive talents can certainly be scrutinzed, there is no doubt that he is absolutely dynamic going forward and when he plays well, really good things happen for Seattle.
As mentioned before, FCD dispatched a two-pronged defensive of the ultra-athletic Tesho Akindele with Moises Hernandez to stick with Yedlin all evening and it worked wonders.
First, let's look at the last time FCD played Seattle. Dallas played a straightforward 4-4-2 with two left backs, Jair Benitez and Hernandez, and it wasn't the most effective thing ever. As you can see from Yedlin's heat map and stats from that first game, he pretty much had his run of show in the first matchup back in September. 45 completed passes up and down the right side of the pitch, five crosses, etc...
Being the amazing coach that he is, Pareja knew they'd need better results against Yedlin in the second match, so he put in another thoroughbred that could contain Yedlin in Tesho Akindele. As we mentioned earlier, Akindele hung with Neagle and Yedlin every step of the way combining with the excellent Moises Hernandez to make the Sounders' left side ineffective and practically non-existent in the first leg.
As you can see, Yedlin's heat map from Sunday tells an extremely different story from the match back in September. Yedlin completed 80%(45/56) of his passes in September's game compared to just 46%(14/30) of his passes on Sunday. According to the OPTA Chalkboard, Yedlin had 18 attemped or completed passes in the Dallas half in September's match compared to just six on Sunday and Yedlin had just one attempted pass in the FCD final third in the entire match. The stats on Neagle are very similar and it says enough that he was subbed out in the 65th minute.
The numbers are even more impressive when you look at Yedlin's previous matches before Sunday's playoff game.
OPTA Chalkboards of Yedlin's last five matches vs LA, at LA, at COL, vs CHV, at FCD show that Sunday was by far the lowest completed passes he's had in quite some time, his lowest percentage of completed passes and by far his most conservative heat map of the previous month showing FCD did a fantastic job of both keeping him pinned in his own half and limiting his crosses.
The flip side to all of this is, of course, the fact that Seattle seemed pretty content to sit back for most of the game. Much more than they typically do on the road, a team that by far led MLS in road goals scored this season.
It'll be a huge task to do it again in Seattle, but Dallas certainly was able to do it in their own house.
FC Dallas' 1-1 draw with Seattle in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinals Sunday night gave the Sounders a slight edge heading into next Monday's second leg at CenturyLink Field. Seattle's advantage is due to the new away goals tiebreaker for this year's postseason. You can get a thorough explanation of the away goals rule and all the other intricacies of a two-leg playoff series HERE. Here are the advancement scenarios for both clubs depending on the result of the second leg:
FC Dallas win
(by any margin)
|FC Dallas advances|
(by any margin)
(away goals tiebreaker)
Two 15-minute extra time
periods will be played.
If still tied, match will be
decided by penalty kick shootout.
Any other draw
(2-2, 3-3, 4-4, etc.)
FC Dallas advances
(away goals tiebreaker)
Here are the best photos from Sunday's epic crowd and epic game vs Seattle Sounders FC