MLS Conference Finals Preview

CARSON, CA - OCTOBER 24: David Ferreira  of FC Dallas smiles at the line judge after falling to the pitch during the MLS match against the Los Angeles Galaxy on October 24, 2010 in Carson, California. The Galaxy defeated FC Dallas 2-1. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

Let’s preview the tactics of the upcoming conference finals. Will you go with the strategic favorite, or does your heart tell you this will (continue to) be the year of the MLS underdog? Even FFG will have to wrestle with whether our hometown club has what it takes to eclipse the shining Galaxy.

San Jose at Colorado

November 13, 9:30pm Eastern, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park

If Corrales can’t go, and Convey fills in at left back, Cummings could have a field day. On the other end, Geovanni will try to wriggle free from Wynne/Moor as Wondo cuts inside.

Columbus looked anemic and disoriented at Colorado—was it related to the altitude or a poor game plan? Either way, altitude is the first issue sea-level San Jose will need to contend with at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. In terms of strategy, the flanks will be key. Colorado found its most dangerous, destructive posture against the Crew when Omar Cummings inhabited the left wing. Despite Bobby Convey’s tremendous performance against New York, he’s not the most stalwart defender—Colorado are likely to line up the speedy Cummings head on with Convey.

San Jose uses Chris Wondolowski on the right flank in a slightly different way. He dizzies defenders by cutting towards the 18. If defenders are drawn in, it opens the wing for a running fullback. If defenders don’t commit, he’ll crank at goal a la Robben (Bayern Munchen) or Messi (Barcelona)—two lefties who are known to terrorize the right side of the pitch.

Colorado may have the fastest guy in the league on its back line, however, in Marvel Wynne. If he can successfully neutralize Wondolowski, Colorado has a good chance of shutting out the Quakes. Then it’s just up to Conor Casey, Cummings and super sub Macoumba Kanji to muster a mere goal.

FC Dallas at LA Galaxy

November 14, 9pm Eastern, The Home Depot Center

FFG recently compared FC Dallas to Inter and LA to Barcelona (in strategy if not in quality). Although Dallas did play the counter attack game to bring down Salt Lake, they are normally a team who prefers to press hard, just like the Galaxy. Two talented teams going balls out usually equals the kind of open, exciting game any fan craves. There are too many IQ points between Bruce Arena and Schellas Hyndman, however, for it to be a mindless goal fest. Instead, it will be fascinating to see the psychological roles each team puts on. Considering the context, the confident, tanned Galaxy are likely to take on the part of suave favorite (Barcelona), while Hyndman’s Dallas will play a more calculated, intelligent underdog (Inter).

If Dema Kovalenko and Juninho don't receive help in the middle of the pitch, Ferreira could run rampant.

In terms of formations, LA are likely to stick with the 4-4-2 that got them here, with savvy veterans Landon Donovan and David Beckham running the wings with a determination we’ve not seen until now. Up top, Edson Buddle will look to break through the slightly vulnerable back line (starting RB Heath Pearce is still out, his replacement – Jackson – has looked shaky, and George John and Ugo Ihemulu are both recently back from injury). Beckhams’ laser-precise free-kicks will be a major threat.

After much speculation and analysis, FFG has finally pinned down Dallas’ preferred formation: 4-4-Ferreira-1. As key playmaker, David Ferreira is given free-reign and prerogative to be wherever he sees fit, which is usually in the perfect spot. If Donovan and Beckham stay wide, they risk allowing Ferreira and the rest of the Dallas midfield ownership of the two middle zones. Dallas are likely to use it for a possession foothold rather than play the kickball they did to hold off Salt Lake. The speedy Marvin Chavez is Ferreira’s perfect compliment, and both Brek Shea and Dax McCarty looked sharp vs. Salt Lake. Hyndman has some key personnel decisions to make. First, will he go with Jackson as a fullback to fill in for Pearce? He made several errors in the first half vs. Salt Lake and looked much better after he was pushed up to midfield. Hyndman may decide to start rookie Zach Loyd instead. Second, with Altiba Harris back from his red card suspension, does he bump Shea out of the starting eleven and use the youngster off the bench?

Regardless of Hyndman’s personnel decisions, this match will be the more tactically interesting Conference Final.

2 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Bradley's Receding Hairline says:

    Ferreira’s been great. I can’t wait to see how Arena/Donovan/Beckham try to cope.

  2. Blake Owen says:

    We forgot to note in our article that the Conference Finals are one and done. So after Sunday evening, we’ll know the teams that will participate in the cup final.

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